STPUD will sue over contaminated water |

STPUD will sue over contaminated water

Andy Bourelle

The South Tahoe Public Utility District board of directors agreed Thursday to pursue civil litigation to seek redress for MTBE contamination.

STPUD Information Officer Dawn Forsythe could not name specific parties that may face lawsuits because the discussion happened in closed session. Exactly which parties are being sued will become public information when the lawsuits are filed.

The board members voted unanimously in public after a 45-minute closed-session discussion.

MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether, is a gasoline additive which has contaminated the groundwater in various places throughout the district by leaking from gas stations. Seven of STPUD’s 34 wells have been shut down as a precaution because traces of MTBE found in the vicinity of the wells. Exact potential health hazards have not been determined, but MTBE-contaminated water has an unpleasant taste and odor, making it undrinkable.

Because of the shut-down wells and a 20-percent reduction in capacity, many South Lake Tahoe residents face water-usage restrictions.

STPUD has called for the removal of MTBE from gasoline sold in the Tahoe Basin, according to Forsythe, and is pushing for aggressive local, state and federal action to address contamination found near drinking water wells.

“This is further proof that the district is going to do anything and everything in its power to protect the drinking water of this community,” said board member Duane Wallace. “It’s our primary responsibility, and we won’t shirk from our duty.”

Next week, the STPUD board of directors will consider adopting a Groundwater Management Plan, which could give them regulatory authority over contaminated groundwater.

The GMP could give STPUD the authority to give fines for violations, a power which the district currently does not have.

The potential lawsuits to be filed are because of damage done to the water system due to MTBE contamination.

The STPUD special meeting for consideration of adopting a GMP is scheduled Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

Residents who want more information about MTBE and its presence in the Lake Tahoe Basin are encouraged to call Forsythe at 544-6474, ext. 208.

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