Lahontan meetings canceled; appointments needed |

Lahontan meetings canceled; appointments needed

Three Lake Tahoe businesses scheduled to appear before the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board this month regarding alleged ground and lake water pollution can thank California Gov. Gray Davis for a few months postponement.

South Lake Tahoe’s January meeting has been canceled, and Lahontan’s February Victorville meeting may have to be canceled, too.

The regional board does not have a quorum.

Newly appointed Gov. Gray Davis has issued a “blanket” revocation of pending appointments made by former Gov. Pete Wilson. In doing so, two of Lahontan’s board members’ appointments were revoked, leaving the board without enough members.

“It’s going to cause a delay. The staff is still all here, and staff is still doing its job, but we don’t have any board,” said Alan Miller, Lahontan associate water resources control engineer. “We’ll continue to do the staff work, but we’ll just have to stock pile it for now.”

The nine-member board already had four vacancies, and with the recent revocations, there are only three sitting members. Miller said he did not know how long it would take to make the appointments. All members of the regional board are appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature.

“Hopefully, we’ll get at least two more in the near future,” Miller said.

The Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association was scheduled to appear before the board at the Jan. 13 meeting, regarding a Cease and Desist order concerning the association’s water treatment facility. The facility allegedly released more than 800-gallons of aluminum-contaminated water into Lake Tahoe last summer, causing the presence of the toxic metal to reach levels where it may have harmed aquatic life.

Also at the meeting, the regional board scheduled a hearing for USA Petroleum – owner of South Lake Tahoe’s USA Gas Station – to appeal a fine of $292,500, which was issued last year. The fine is for USA’s alleged delinquent clean-up efforts of an MTBE plume at the “Y,” with MTBE levels as high as 30,000 parts MTBE per billion parts water.

California’s taste and water threshold for MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – is 5 parts per billion, because MTBE-contaminated water smells and tastes like turpentine.

The hearing had been scheduled for October, but Lahontan agreed to postpone it until January to allow USA to concentrate on the clean-up.

USA has been complying since the fine was issued, according to Lahontan.

Representatives of the Lake Tahoe Car Wash and gas station were also to have an opportunity at the meeting to appeal a $14,000 fine issued in December. Lahontan staff issued the fine regarding MTBE-contaminated groundwater found beneath the station with levels of the controversial additive as high as 18,000 parts per billion. Lahontan issued the fine because the station allegedly has been delinquent in clean-up efforts.

Lahontan is one of nine regional boards comprising the California Water Quality Control Board. Lahontan’s jurisdiction stretches 570 miles from the Oregon border to the northern Mojave Desert, covering 33,000 square miles. The board is responsible for protecting water quality within its region. There are two main offices, one in South Lake Tahoe and one in Victorville.

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