Station will be investigated for MTBE leak |

Station will be investigated for MTBE leak

Andy Bourelle

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board will be contacting the land and station owners of the Swiss Mart on Emerald Bay Road to see if the MTBE found in a nearby well came from there.

Lisa Dernbach, Lahontan associate engineering geologist, said the Swiss Mart was the “closest gasoline source” to the Lukins Brothers Water Company well found with MTBE contamination.

The Lukins Brothers Water Company, which is parallel to Highway 89 from the “Y” to the city limits, serves about 900 customers. The contaminated well – well No. 3 – has not been in operation since 1989 and no MTBE-contaminated water reached customers.

Dernbach said the Swiss Mart will need to submit a groundwater investigation plan to determine if the contamination is from that property.

The contaminated well is about 150 feet from the Swiss Mart property, she said.

The Lukins Brothers Water Company has operated since the 1950s and has five wells, only three of which are in operation. Two wells, including No. 3, were found to be contaminated with PCE – another contaminant – in 1989 and shut down.

Lukins said he had kept the wells for monitoring purposes. The water company is monitoring the other wells and has found no indication of MTBE contamination.

Lukins received laboratory results showing the contamination on Sept. 30.

Lukins Brothers Water Company and the South Tahoe Public Utility District were both considering drilling new wells in the area, efforts which have been put on hold until the contamination can be investigated.

STPUD has lost the use of 12 of its 34 wells because of MTBE plumes throughout South Lake Tahoe.

MTBE is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It was detected in the Lukins well at levels of 140 parts per billion. California has an action level of 35 parts per billion. At low levels, between 15 and 40 parts per billion, people can detect MTBE in water. It smells and tastes like turpentine.

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