Bacteria levels back to normal after marina spill |

Bacteria levels back to normal after marina spill

Tom Lotshaw

Bacteria concentrations around Tahoe Keys Marina were back to normal background levels by Wednesday after a sewage leak at the Fresh Ketch restaurant reported last weekend.

Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board will not be doing any more water sampling around the marina, said Lauri Kemper, assistant executive director. Sampling detected elevated concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria in two sites around the marina Monday and Tuesday.

“I think we have evidence that some of the sewage made it into the lake,” Kemper said. “It occurred and there has been some impact. But it is relatively small compared to other spills we’ve had in the past.”

County health officials have estimated the total sewage spill at about 15 gallons.

Marina operators blame the spill on sabotage. They claim one or two disgruntled tenants flushed plastic bags down a toilet until a sewer line clogged and backed up into an overflow vault, which then filled and spilled raw sewage into the lake.

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The marina also alleges that one or both of the men then reported the spill to regulatory agencies without letting the marina know about it.

One of those tenants has been formally banned from the Tahoe Keys Marina property and the other is in the process of being evicted, front desk supervisor Chad Holdren said.

“We’re still evaluating our options, but without full proof of catching somebody in the act we can’t really go there,” Holdren said about reporting the alleged vandalism to police. “Our employees saw these two people outside laughing and pointing and taking pictures.”

According to the marina, a plumber came and unclogged the sewer line and pulled out a large number of white plastic bags on May 3.

Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board continues to investigate the cause of the spill to determine if the marina property will be ordered to make any upgrades to its sewer system or face penalties for the spill.

“We’re just gathering any evidence or facts that we can right now. We have to look at the nature and the extent of the violations and the culpability,” Kemper said, adding that penalties are not normally imposed for spills caused by vandalism. “That’s part of our investigation, too,” she said.

Discharges of sewage into Lake Tahoe can be penalized by fines of up to $10,000 per day or $10 per gallon.

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