Caltrans fined $20,000 for violations | SierraSun.com

Caltrans fined $20,000 for violations

Erich Sommer, Sierra Sun

The California Department of Transportation was fined $20,000 last week for water quality violations from construction and repair work on Interstate 80 between Truckee and Floriston last summer.

The violations resulted from sediment-laden runoff that made its way to the Truckee river after storms on July 10 and Sept. 12 of last year.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board imposed the fines after upholding two of five complaints recommended to the board by LRWQCB executive officer Harold Singer.

In all, Caltrans faced $50,000 in fines for five water-quality violations and unauthorized discharges of turbid water into the Truckee River.

Each complaint carried with it a maximum $10,000 fine.

The fines were handed down during the board’s Jan. 9-10 meeting in South Lake Tahoe.

But while the board is holding Caltrans responsible, the violations resulted from work performed for Caltrans by contractors, said Caltrans officials.

Caltrans has yet to decide if they will pass any fines levied against them on to the contractors, said resident engineer Kirk Carrington.

Carrington said Caltrans has worked with the contractors and the water board over the past five months to prevent further violations.

“We try to keep these things to a minimum. Unfortunately, some of these things will happen from time to time,” Carrington said. “The entire job parallels the river, and we have five crossings [of the river] we are working on.”

Last week, the board dismissed one complaint that resulted from workers washing off drilling equipment over the river.

“There was some discrepancy between what was observed by the Caltrans field inspector and what was observed by workers from [the drilling company],” said Eric Taxer, a water quality specialist with LRWQCB.

Taxer said his agency withdrew a fourth complaint involving the runoff from holding ponds that contained water from drilling.

“After additional consideration, we decided [the company] had implemented everything they reasonably could have to prevent additional runoff,” he said.

The board deferred ruling on the fifth complaint until their March 13 meeting.

On Tuesday, Nevada County Department of Environmental Health reported a separate “spill or release” that occurred on Jan. 2 at a Caltrans site.

Nevada County Environmental Health described the incident in a release as a “possible haz mat spill at the Floriston Bridge,” that included a “petro-looking sheen on water coming out of soil.”

Subsequent water samples indicated diesel and oil contamination in the water.