Utility will show off its well | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Utility will show off its well

Go out and take a look at it.

South Tahoe Public Utility District wants residents to lay eyes on a well in Meyers equipped with an innovative $1.4 million MTBE water treatment system.

The treatment system is being paid for with a portion of $69 million paid to the district to settle a series of lawsuits against oil companies. The final lawsuit was resolved in early August.

The treatment eliminates MTBE with bursts of ozone and hydrogen peroxide. Instead of leaving behind a dirty carbon filter, as many systems do, its byproducts are carbon dioxide and water. Online since the end of June, it cleans drinking water at a rate of 800 gallons a minute.

The district will host an open house Wednesday to explain how the system works. The meeting will also provide an opportunity for residents to suggest what color buildings at the site should be painted and what type of landscaping would work around the structures.

“It’s open to the general public,” said Dennis Cocking, district spokesman, “but we’re expecting to see more neighbors from the immediate area.”

The well is at the corner of Arrowhead and Hopi avenues, where the open house will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“We’re looking for input on color schemes, landscaping, how to make the site blend into the neighborhood as much as it can,” Cocking said.

Gasoline laced with methyl tertiary butyl ether was sold at the Lake Tahoe Basin from the mid-1990s until it was banned at the basin in 2000. Leaks from gas station tanks forced the district to close the Arrowhead well and 12 others in 1998.

The basin was the first area in the state to ban the additive, used to spike gasoline, as much as a pint per gallon, to reduce automobile emissions. The additive can be especially damaging to the environment and humans because it spreads quickly in water.

The Arrowhead well is the first step in what will likely be a long cleanup process for the district, Cocking said.

“Removing the MTBE from all of this water is not something we are going to accomplish overnight,” he said. “But we will take it step by step and ultimately restore the affected water.”

The additive rendered more than 2 million gallons of district water unusable each day. The U.S. Geological Survey published a study in 2001 reporting that MTBE had been detected in 14 percent of the nation’s surface water sources and five percent of its wells.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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