Pier owners, contractor billed $248,000 for sewage spill
TAHOE CITY – Another hefty bill was handed to the two property owners and the contractor involved in July’s sewage spill at Kings Beach when the North Tahoe Public Utility District recently sent a “demand for payment” worth $248,000.
The bill includes expenses the district incurred in the repair, cleanup and remediation of the July 19 spill that dumped 120,000 gallons of raw sewage onto the beach in Kings Beach and into Lake Tahoe, according to NTPUD General Manager Steve Rogers.
“This could trigger potential legal action,” Rogers said. “Everybody hopes the matter is resolved in a timely manner.”
The spill occurred when a worker with Tahoe City-based Pacific Built Inc. punctured a hole in a buried 14-inch sewer main line while building a private pier for two property owners. Four beaches were closed for 10 days and another one was shut down for 16 days. Businesses in Kings Beach and Tahoe Vista also reported a loss of $80,000 as a result of the discharge.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board last month proposed a $700,000 fine for property owners Geoffrey and Christine Davis and Hans and Margaret Coffeng, as well as Pacific Built. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9 in Kings Beach. The property owners and contractor have 30 days after the fine is adopted by the board to either pay the fine or appeal it to the state water board, according to Chuck Curtis, a Lahontan supervising engineer.
Curtis noted that the regional board can either dismiss the complaint, accept the fine or modify the fine.
“It is one of the top three or four (fines) we have ever given out,” Curtis said. “This is the largest fine in the Lake Tahoe area.”
In 2002, IMC Chemicals received the largest penalty in Lahontan’s history – $2 million – for discharge of petroleum into Searles Lake. In August, the water board and Squaw Valley Ski Corp. settled for $900,000 over water quality issues.
The maximum penalty for July’s incident is $1.2 million, but the amount proposed was based on several factors, including magnitude of release, potential for cleanup, effect on the environment, potential human health problems, ability for violator to pay and prior history of violations.
Curtis said other agencies have the option to bring their own enforcement action, but he doesn’t expect them to do so. Representatives with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Placer County have said they do not plan to impose a fine. However, Placer County incurred its own expenses regarding the spill and will send its own bill to the property owners and contractor.
A TRPA board member made a comment at last month’s Governing Board meeting that Pacific Built had filed for bankruptcy, but Drew Briner, the contractor’s layer, said that it was a rumor and that his client has not filed for bankruptcy.
“Everything is still in the works,” Briner said Tuesday.
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