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Sewage spill sends several to hospital

B.H. Bose

A sewage spill at a West Shore state park Friday was contained quickly and caused little environmental damage. However, several park employees who were involved in the cleanup were sent to the hospital for precautionary reasons, officials said.

“We saw 10 victims on Friday,” said Mary Flores, nurse manager of the emergency department at Barton Memorial Hospital. “Out of the 10, two were determined to have no exposure and six were treated between Friday and today with vaccines for Hepatitis B.”

On Friday morning, park officials were alerted to a sewage spill located between a campground and nearby Lester Beach at D.L. Bliss State Park.



“We found effluent flowing out of a manhole between the campground and the beach itself,” said Bob Macomber, California State Park’s Sierra District superintendent. “Crews were dispatched and the spill was contained with sandbags to keep it from going into the lake.”

While the results are still being determined, Chris Adair from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board estimated the spill to be about two to three gallons a minute and lasting about three hours.



“There was no direct discharge into the lake,” he said. “They were able to contain it mostly on a parking lot, although some flowed onto the beach. It started coming out of a manhole about 200 feet above the beach, and it was downhill, so it came straight down and went across the parking lot.”

The spill came from a park sewage line. Although it wasn’t from the nearby Tahoe City Public Utility District’s sewage lines, which the park system feeds into, the district did respond and helped stop and clean up the spill.

“We took our high-pressure cleanup line and broke through the root blockage,” said Bill Back, utility director of sewage and water. “We then used the vacuum to suck up a lot of the sewage on the ground.”

According to Adair, if it wasn’t for the response, the spill would probably have been worse.

“Nobody could get there. Everyone had the day off,” Adair said. “The park shut down the system and the TCPUD did a really awesome job unclogging it and cleaning it up. They get a gold star.”

The blockage was believed to be caused by a tree root which may have worked its way into the system. According to Macomber, roots work their way toward moist areas, and sometimes intrude into the lines.

“We had Roto-Rooter on site cleaning the lines and apparently a root was dislodged, which caused the blockage,” said Macomber. “It took three to four hours to get the blockage cleared. We shut down a portion of the beach and are currently in the process of opening it back up.”

Despite the fact that some sewage could have percolated into the nearby soil, the park crews responded appropriately and all the agencies were alerted, Macomber said.

While the spill was contained, several employees went to Barton Memorial Hospital for examination. Six people were given vaccines to combat the possibility of Hepatitis B, said Flores, who also added that the El Dorado County Public Health Department is following up to make sure everyone is fine.

“It is important that people realize that this was not a large spill,” Flores said. “I don’t know the exact situation, but a lot of times when people are very concerned the doctor will allow it (the vaccine) to be given.”

Macomber was unaware of any visits to the hospital, but he did add that park officials did offer the trip to the hospital for all employees involved in the cleanup free of charge.

“We’ve had no worker’s compensation claims,” said Macomber. “We told all the employees that if they felt they needed to get an anti-globulin shot or needed to be checked that we would pay for it. Arrangements were met with Barton Memorial Hospital.”

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

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