Lahonton eases up on fines |

Lahonton eases up on fines

Andy Bourelle

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board has discarded one and lessened another fine against parties responsible for contaminating ground and lake water in the basin.

The governing board took the action at its South Lake Tahoe meeting Thursday night.

A $6,000 fine against Ultramar, Inc. – owner of the South Lake Tahoe Beacon gas station – was dropped. Ultramar had been accused of not following the Beacon’s cleanup and abatement order for gasoline – and MTBE – contamination coming from its property.

A $5,000 fine was changed to $2,500 against the owner of Lakeview Sports Bike and Jet Ski Rental, which faced the fine for allegedly dripping gasoline into the lake.

The Beacon has been cleaning up a contamination plume caused by a “drive off,” where a driver left the gasoline pump nozzle in the car and drove off. The cleanup system was down for several days in August, and Lahontan staff said they should have been notified the system was not working.

Richard Munsch, representing Ultramar, said he did contact Lahontan and leave a telephone message. Lahontan staff had no recollection of the message, but Munsch did bring in a copy of a telephone bill showing he called the Lahontan office several times on the day he claimed to have left the message.

The board dismissed the fine.

Ron Williams, owner of Lakeview Sports Bike and Ski, admitted to releasing gasoline into the lake. Rather than use 5-gallon cans like typical Jet Ski rentals, he said he installed a 55-gallon tank on his dock because he thought it would be better.

The pump leaked gasoline, and Lahontan officials told him to change the pump. He said he got rid of it as soon as he found out it was not working.

The staff agreed to administer $2,500 of the $5,000 fine for the cost of Lahontan’s staff work investigating the problem.

When agencies or individuals are fined by Lahontan, the responsible party has the right to a hearing before the board to appeal the administrative civil liability. USA Petroleum Corp. faces a $292,500 fine from Lahontan, and time was originally scheduled at the meeting for the appeal.

The fine is for failing to establish an acceptable cleanup plan to deal with a contamination plume emanating from South Lake Tahoe’s USA Gas Station.

Harold Singer, executive officer of Lahontan, said USA now has submitted an acceptable plan and wants to concentrate on cleanup. The appeal hearing was postponed.

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