MTBE scare at Cave Rock: Additive doesn’t reach lake |

MTBE scare at Cave Rock: Additive doesn’t reach lake

Andy Bourelle

No MTBE contamination from the Cave Rock Country Store has reached the water of Lake Tahoe, and Nevada Department of Environmental Protection Project Manager Eric Noack said the “emergency action portion” of the cleanup should be done by Aug. 31.

MTBE and benzene were detected in the groundwater near Lake Tahoe, and NDEP required the owners of the land, Hager Family Trust, to “intersect, contain and remediate” the problem.

Once the emergency action to keep the contaminant plume from going into the lake is completed, Noack said, then Hager Family Trust’s contractor, Soils Engineering, Inc., would complete a detailed site characterization and work to remediate contamination at the source of the plume.

The underground storage tanks at the location were removed in June, and NDEP found the presence of contaminants at the site. In July, the results of tests indicated that neither the Cave Rock Country Store, nearby private wells, Lake Tahoe nor the Cave Rock/Skyland Water System had evidence of contamination.

However, later in July, MTBE and benzene contamination was discovered in two nearby private wells. Bottled water is being provided to the residents from Hager Family Trust through Soils Engineering, Inc.

The detections of MTBE and benzene near the lake shore were discovered July 28.

Noack said NDEP is sampling the lake’s waters near the location every two weeks to make sure no contaminants have reached Lake Tahoe.

MTBE, methyl tertiary butyl ether, is a gasoline additive that, at very low levels of contamination, causes water to smell and taste like turpentine, making it undrinkable. Research is ongoing on the substance, but it is believed to be a cancer-causing agent. Benzene, Noack said, is a known carcinogen that contaminates groundwater at very low levels.

Nevada has a maximum capacity limit of 5 parts per billion for benzene. Nevada has no MCL for MTBE yet, but the federal government has set an advisory range of about 20 to 40 parts per billion.

At one of the residences, MTBE was detected at about 41 parts per billion. At the other private well, it was detected at 212 parts per billion and benzene was found at 7.4 parts per billion.

At the groundwater source near the shore, Noack said, MTBE was detected at 35 parts per billion and benzene was detected at 24.8 parts per billion.

Noack said the near-shore sampling was “not a properly constructed monitoring well, but it is an indication (the contaminants) are there.”

Noack said Hager Family Trust and Soils Engineering Inc., are cooperating fully and paying the costs of the cleanup.

“After our May 26 compliance inspection, they’ve been on board,” he said.

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