State gives more cash for cleanup at stations |

State gives more cash for cleanup at stations

Gas station owners may again take over the cleanup of a dense plume of pollutants emanating from Tahoe Tom’s service station – at least for another $1.5 million worth of work.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board has been treating contamination at the site since July of last year, after the station’s owners expended $1 million of state funds and had no money to continue. Since then, the state has upped the amount it will give gas station owners for cleanup from $1 million to $1.5 million.

And, because MTBE in the ground beneath Tahoe Tom’s is from a newer leak, the station is now eligible for another $1.5 million.

“(The owner) has been offered the next round of cleanup money,” said Lisa Dernbach, associate engineering geologist for Lahontan. “We’ve been talking to him and his attorney about whether he wants to take over again. But nothing has been decided.”

The total cost of cleanup there is expected to exceed $4 million.

The contaminant plume stretches two city blocks and threatens several private and public wells, but none have been contaminated. The South Tahoe Public Utility District has two wells in the area that have been shut off to avoid pulling in the contamination. MTBE can move up to three times faster than normal when near a pumping well.

There are other contamination plumes at Tahoe that are larger. However, the one under Tahoe Tom’s, located at 4029 Lake Tahoe Blvd., is unusually dense with gasoline compounds, especially MTBE. While MTBE levels of 5 parts per billion can render water undrinkable, the stuff pulled out of the ground at Tahoe Tom’s has been as high as 22,000 parts per million.

At a meeting next week, Lahontan’s board of directors will consider issuing an administrative civil liability – or fine – of $131,000 to the owners of Tahoe Tom’s. The penalty is for delinquent cleanup efforts from August 7, 1998 to April 26, 1999. The state agency could have issued a daily penalty of $5,000, which would have amounted to a fine of more than $1 million.

“They were doing the work; it was just slower than the deadlines,” Dernbach said. “In this instance, because at least they were trying to clean it up, we went with the lower penalty of $500 a day.”

Lahontan is the only water quality control board in the state cleaning up MTBE contamination. It also has been taking care of the pollution problems at the Meyers Beacon since 1998.

What: Lahontan meeting

When: April 13, 7 p.m.

Where: City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

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