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Sewage flows at Pioneer Trail

Christina Proctor

About 1,500 gallons of raw sewage bubbled out of a manhole at the corner of Pioneer Trail and Larch Avenue Wednesday.

South Tahoe Public Utility District officials said the sewer line was clogged with grease.

Ginger Huber, Tahoe division manager for El Dorado County’s environmental health management, investigated the spill and said she doesn’t believe there is any serious risk to the basin’s environment or wildlife.



“The spill was greatly diluted because of the storm run-off and the rain,” Huber explained.

Huber said her department’s concern is to make sure that for at least the next 48 hours no residents or pets are allowed in any standing puddles or flowing streams in the Wildwood Avenue area between Pioneer Trail and U.S. Highway 50.



“It was raw sewage and there are potentials for infectious diseases like hepatitis A and Giardia,” Huber cautioned.

STPUD crews arrived at the site at 9:30 a.m. It took an hour for the clog to be cleared. The sewer water flowed down Larch Avenue and then cut through three private properties before hitting Wildwood Avenue. The sewage traveled down the east side gutter of Wildwood Avenue to U.S. Highway 50 where it entered the city’s storm drains.

STPUD spokesperson Dawn Forsythe said testing by environmental specialists showed a barely detectable amount of sewage actually reached the city storm drains. Forsythe said that because of the high precipitation Wednesday morning the city drainage systems were flowing into Ski Run Marina.

Chris Adair, an associate water resource control engineer for Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, was also on scene.

“I’m not convinced that anything made it to the lake,” Adair said. “I don’t believe we’re looking at a significant problem.”

Adair didn’t think the spill would have any effect on lake clarity. Adair said there would also be no fines lodged against STPUD for the spill.

“Fines wouldn’t even factor into this,” Adair said. “These things happen. STPUD was really on the ball. They were there as soon as they heard about it and they got the blockage removed as soon as possible.”

Forsythe said test results from the marina wouldn’t be available for at least 24 hours, but as a precaution water activities at the marina and the adjacent beaches are not advised for the next 48 hours. Forsythe said the caution shouldn’t affect boaters as long as they stay out of the water.

Clean up crews also placed granulated chlorine on all the dirt surfaces and private yards that the flow passed over to reduce any possible health risk.

“It’s the same stuff they use in swimming pools,” Forsythe explained.

Forsythe said the most common cause of clogged sewer lines is grease. STPUD spends more than $520,000 every year in a regular grease-cleaning maintenance program. Three trucks clean 1 to 1 1/2 miles every day depending on the weather.

“How often this happens all depends on human activity,” Forsythe said. The last back up Forsythe remembers was caused by disposable diapers being flushed down a toilet.

SIDEBAR BOX

STPUD recommends that grease be placed in an empty coffee can where it can solidify in the refrigerator. Once the can is full, secure the lid with tape and put it out with the trash.

Another cause of sewer backups if from “extraneous” debris being flushed down toilets. People should flush only feces, urine and toilet paper – no disposable diapers or hygiene products.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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