Stateline spill closes highway |

Stateline spill closes highway

Rob Bhatt

A construction accident Monday left emergency crews scrambling to clean up hundreds of gallons of antifreeze that spilled from a ruptured sidewalk snowmelt pipe in the Stateline casino core.

The accident resulted in the closure of U.S. Highway 50 between the Nevada state line and Lake Parkway for about four hours as emergency response crews contained the spill.

Meanwhile, a Reno-based hazardous waste disposal company was expected to work into the evening removing contaminated water from a dammed drainage line at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

Based on initial reports, none of the potentially deadly antifreeze reached Lake Tahoe.

The incident began shortly before 1 p.m. A construction worker with a concrete saw cut into a pipe of the mechanical snowmelt system outside Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, witnesses said.

Within moments, ethylene glycol – antifreeze – began pouring into the gutter.

A Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District engine was in the area, and firefighters used an airbag to temporarily stop the pipe leak, said Assistant Fire Chief Bruce VanCleemput.

Meanwhile, crews working on a casino expansion inside Harrah’s built a makeshift dirt and sand dam in the gutter to stop the antifreeze from flowing into a nearby storm drain. Casino maintenance workers later shut off valves feeding antifreeze into the area of the rupture.

By that time, VanCleemput estimated 200 to 400 gallons of the antifreeze had seeped into the drainage lines, which lead to a holding pond behind Harveys Resort Hotel/Casino. From there, the drainage lines empty into a stream near the eighth fairway at Edgewood.

Fire officials contacted Edgewood workers, who built a temporary dam to stop the stream flow.

VanCleemput credits the quick action of crews at Harrah’s and Edgewood for preventing the antifreeze from reaching the lake.

The Reno disposal company used suction pumps to essentially vacuum the antifreeze into tanker trucks used to store the antifreeze for disposal.

A primary concern was removing all of the contaminated water from the stream at Edgewood, because ethylene glycol can kill animals and people.

“We’re going to make sure it gets cleaned up, so it’s safe for everybody’s concerns,” VanCleemput said.

Another concern was the threat that the antifreeze could have posed to an underground electrical vault outside Harrah’s. However, none of the antifreeze was believed to have reached the Sierra Pacific Power Co. facility.

Officials reported the snow melting system, which consists of pipes that run through concrete in Harrah’s six-story parking garage and the sidewalks outside the resort, contains between 500 to 900 gallons of antifreeze.

VanCleemput said it was difficult to assess the exact volume of the spill, because the antifreeze that leaked into the storm drain mixed with storm water also flowing in the drainage system.

The accident occurred during the first day of work rebuilding the curbs, gutters and sidewalks outside the Stateline casinos. Granite Construction Co. was contracted by the Nevada Department of Transportation for the $1.2 million project, which includes repaving the highway between the state line and Round Hill.

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