Station owners vow to restart MTBE cleanup |

Station owners vow to restart MTBE cleanup

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The owners of Swiss Mart Food & Gas have promised water quality officials they will resume groundwater treatment at their property by next week.

“This is the first time they’ve given us a date for resuming cleanup action there,” said Lisa Dernbach, senior engineering geologist at the Lahontan Regional Quality Control Board. “We’re pleased it is going to be restarted soon.”

The letter, delivered Feb. 10, followed a meeting between station owners Sarbjit “Sam” Kang, of South Lake Tahoe, and his partner Azad Amiri, of Concord, Calif., with members of Lahontan and state officials.

The owners were told at the meeting that their gas station would be shut down by the county if they failed to turn on the MTBE cleanup system.

The owners have failed before to operate the cleanup system, used to treat water contaminated by the fuel additive. There have been a series of stop and starts since state funds allotted for the cleanup were expended in December 2001, Dernbach said.

“We came up with a new plan to help clean up the MTBE problem,” Amiri said. “Once everything is done, it will hopefully solve the problem.”

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Amiri said the system at the site had become ineffective and the new system will cost him about $200,000.

“We hired an expert and a few consultants to do extraction or something to capture this plume. If anything exists it will pick it up,” Amiri said. “Then we’ll monitor it for almost a year to make sure it doesn’t come back. It’s like a cancer. Lahontan has been cooperative with us and put in a lot of effort and energy.”

Ginger Huber, Tahoe Division environmental manager for El Dorado County, said she was pleased Kang and Amiri have responded.

“That’s good news,” Huber said. “They have until the 28th to get it restarted,” otherwise the county will issued a 30-day notice to shut down the station, she said.

A water treatment system was installed at the Swiss Mart to treat MTBE-laced groundwater in 1998. MTBE, which stands for methyl tertiary butyl ether, poses a potential health risk for water supplies. State officials discovered the gasoline additive had leaked from underground tanks and contaminated groundwater in the area and a private well on Eloise Avenue.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at