Sewage dumping in parking lot leads to jail for bus driver
A tour bus driver responsible for dumping the majority of his bus’ sewage tank behind the Horizon Casino Resort’s parking lot was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in the Douglas County Jail.
Javier Espinoza Hernandez, 41, of Gardena, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful dumping of sewage. He is also facing warrants from the Las Vegas Nevada Highway Patrol for driving without a license or registration. Hernandez was a driver for California-based Best Bet Tour Lines.
According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s report, a Horizon security supervisor saw Hernandez dump his tank Sept. 15 onto a dirt area east of Lower Lake Parkway. Hernandez reportedly told a security officer that his bus passengers were complaining about a foul smell so he stopped and dumped three-quarters of the tank. The tank contained raw sewage.
When Deputy Gregory Shields arrived at the scene two Horizon employees were cleaning up the sewage. Shields said he drove within 40 feet of the “green dump site,” but then quickly moved back.
“The smell was so bad I had to back my car to get away from the immediate smell,” Shields said in his report.
About two and half hours after Shields initial contact at the scene Tahoe Regional Planning Agency field agent Doug Smith came to check the site. Shields reported that Smith concluded that no sewage went directly into the lake or a stream and it would probably be absorbed by the ground.
Horizon spokeswoman Sandy Hoy said the health department was also contacted and informed of the dump.
According to the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection there are procedures that must be followed in regards to sewage spills.
“If there are any visible solids in the waste they have to be picked up and hauled away to a landfill outside the Tahoe Basin,” said Joe Livak, enforcement branch supervisor for the Bureau of Water Pollution Control. “The cleanup of liquids requires the use of granular chlorine and it should be covered with clean dirt to prevent animals from getting into it.”
Hoy said no solids were visible and chlorine and dirt were used on the sewage behind Horizon.
“The one good thing is that it was something that was detected immediately and cleaned immediately,” Hoy said.
Livak said spills like the one at Horizon could result in fines of up to $25,000 for the tour bus company or the property owner if not properly cleaned. Livak said a report should have also been made to his division, and no such report had been received.
Hoy said their are legal dumping sites for campers and buses on the South Shore including one at the Zephyr Cove Campground.
“Many of the tour buses turn around and go back immediately so they don’t have to dump, but there are places for them to do it if they need to,” Hoy said.
After accepting Hernandez’s guilty plea and passing sentence Judge Steven McMorris gave the following warning to Hernandez through his translator, “Tell him if he ever comes up here driving a bus and does this again I would give him the maximum time, which is six months.”
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