Tahoe governing district investigating cause of sewer spill
August 3, 2009
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Lake Tahoe’s east-shore highway could reopen as early as Tuesday afternoon after a Saturday sewer spill closed the thruway to traffic, a Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman said Monday.
Granite Construction started work Monday morning to fix a section of Nevada Highway 28 about 2 miles east of Sand Harbor that dissolved when a line that carries treated sewer water broke early Saturday morning. NDOT has partnered with the company on an “emergency contract,” said NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder.
“We’re very confident we can get it up and running by tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow night,” Magruder said.
Workers excavated loose rock and dirt and will have to rebuild the section of destroyed road, Magruder said. Details on the cost of the emergency contract are unknown.
The incident impacted both lanes, “with a large portion of the highway missing due to the amount and pressure of the fluid eruption,” according to the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.
Bob Lochridge, operations supervisor for the Incline Village General Improvement District’s public works department, said water was reported spewing from the district’s effluent pipeline around 6:30 a.m. Saturday. The pipe was quickly shut down and no treated wastewater reached Lake Tahoe or its tributaries, IVGID and NLTFPD officials said.
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“It’s definitely not making it to the lake,” Lochridge said over the weekend. “That was our main concern.”
Crews from the U.S. Forest Service dug lines down the slope from the spill to ensure the wastewater would not reach the lake.
IVGID crews repaired the burst pipe by Saturday evening, said IVGID Engineering Manager Brad Johnson in a Monday interview. The cause of the break is being investigated, he said.
“We don’t know why it leaked,” Johnson said. “It didn’t fail in a traditional (location), at failing joints – it was in the centerline segment of the pipe.”
District officials are meeting this week to assess the incident, Johnson said, something that could affect the IVGID’s effluent export pipeline project.
The failed pipe on Saturday was an older pipe that is not up for replacement in the $21 million project, which is co-funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Johnson said.
“When we scoped the project, it was not a portion of the pipe identified for replacement,” Johnson said. “It was identified then as being in the greatest of shape.”
IVGID finalized plans for the effluent export project in 2005. It is designed to replace and repair much of the 33-year-old, 21-mile deteriorating wastewater pipeline used to export treated sewage out of the basin, into the Carson Valley.
The district could determine in its investigation this week if the project needs to be altered to include replacing the area of pipe that failed Saturday.
“It’s just too early to tell right now,” Johnson said.
In all, IVGID, NDOT, U.S. Forest Service, Nevada highway Patrol, Carson Fire, Tahoe Douglas Fire, Nevada Environmental Control and North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District combined resources to control Saturday’s incident.
The stretch of road between Incline Village and the U.S. Route 50 intersection is used by about 5,500 vehicles a day, Magruder said, as it is the most popular route for commuters to and from South Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.