North Shore beach opens; water still off limits: Spill estimated at over 120,000 gallons | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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North Shore beach opens; water still off limits: Spill estimated at over 120,000 gallons

Susan Wood and Andrew Pridgen

A quarter-mile stretch on a north shore beach of Lake Tahoe has been reopened after 120,000 gallons of raw sewage seeped into the lake’s pristine waters Tuesday. But the coastal water is still off limits.

Health and regulatory officials are set to meet this afternoon to determine whether to provide the public access to the water at the five beaches affected: Kings Beach State Recreation Area, Coon Street Boat Launch, North Tahoe Beach, Secline Beach and the public beach at the south end of Deer Street.

“If people want to play on the beach, picnic or whatever, they can. They just can’t go in the water,” North Tahoe Public Utility District General Manager Steve Rogers said Sunday from his home.

Private beaches in that area were also impacted by the spill caused by a break in a main line during pier construction efforts. Enough raw sewage seeped into the lake to fill three swimming pools, Rogers said.

“It’s been a long week,” Rogers said. “The effort was very labor intensive.”

It took Nineteen truckloads to haul the top 2 inches of sand from affected areas.

Today, Placer County Environmental Health and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board are due to review two rounds of tests conducted at the lake. No health problems had been reported, but that didn’t stop the concern and the scare – which sounded more like a beach report from Southern California.

While nearby North Tahoe Water Sports closed last week, its neighbor, Jason’s Grill, kept its shingle out for business.

Manager Monte Webb said in his 22 years at the lake he’s never heard of a spill of this magnitude on the North Shore. Business has dipped, but it could have been much worse given the sheer nature of problem at the height of summer.

“There are plenty of parking spaces now,” Webb joked.

Incomplete permits

Permits issued to Kings Beach property owners sharing the cost of a private pier were deemed incomplete and did not disclose the main sewer line as part of the easement, environmental officials said Friday.

This negligence, while “not of malicious intent,” Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Singlaub said, could result in severe fines to any or all of the following parties: Pacific Built, the Tahoe City-based contractor hired to build the pier; property owners Geoff and Christie Davis and Hans and Margaret Coffeng; and Tahoe Vista-based Leah Kaufman Planning and Consulting Services, the firm hired to complete and submit the paperwork to local agencies.

“We permitted the pier,” Singlaub said. “Looking back on the paperwork, one of the things that is required in applying for a permit and the responsibility of the applicant is that all known existing easements be recorded on the survey. The known main line for the sewer was not on the permit.”

Lahontan officials said their records revealed a similar omission.

“The property owner has an easement for the sewer line and that was not disclosed,” said Lauri Kemper, an engineer and division manager for Lahontan. “We’re going to be asking the consultant about this. Ultimately though, the property owner(s) are responsible, not the contractor.”

Singlaub said his agency is concerned foremost with helping get the water and surrounding land clean and tested. Fines will come later.

“We’ll be following up on this,” he said. “This has been a pretty expensive deal for NTPUD to clean up. Those trucks are not cheap to hire and workers going around-the-clock is going to cost a lot of money.”

Rogers did not estimate the cost.


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