Five Tahoe beaches to remain closed after sewage spill
Sun News Service
TAHOE CITY ” All public and private beaches in Kings Beach were evacuated Tuesday afternoon and will be closed at least five to 10 days, after a private contractor hit a sewage pipeline 40 to 50 feet off the shoreline and spilled raw sewage into Lake Tahoe.
No health problems had been reported as of Wednesday from people who were in the water at the time of the spill.
“This is a major incident at this time,” said Steve Rogers, general manager of the North Tahoe Public Utility District. “Our immediate concern is the safety of our public.”
Rogers said he did not know how much sewage spilled into the lake or the impact of the spill.
A worker with Pacific Built Engineering Contractors in Tahoe City accidentally hit a 14-inch sewer mainline while piledriving to build a private pier west of the North Tahoe Beach Center at 2 p.m. Tuesday. A spokesperson for Pacific Built was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Utility workers evacuated the beaches before 3 p.m., Rogers said. They also built berms to prevent sewage from spreading farther, as well as rerouting the sewage flow from Secline to National. The leak was contained at 6:45 p.m., and the sewer line was repaired at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to Rogers.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the NTPUD will test the lake water two times a day at various locations in the area and send samples to Placer County Environmental Health for review. The first water sample should be available this morning, Rogers said. The utility will consult with the U.S. Department of Fish and Game to determine if chlorine can be used to treat the water. The Placer County Office of Emergency Services will determine when the beaches will reopen.
“We really want to stress that this is an isolated incident and will not have a lasting effect on Lake Tahoe,” said Mike Fitch with the Placer County Office of Emergency Services. “It was isolated to five beaches.”
The beaches affected by the spill include Kings Beach State Recreation Area, Coon Street Boat Launch, North Tahoe Beach Center, Secline Beach and the public beach behind Steamers Beach Side Bar and Oven, as well as the private beaches in between.
Rogers said the leak does not effect the NTPUD drinking water or the Tahoe Vista recreation area.
“Our primary concern is to make sure the environment is safe for the public,” Rogers said. “We understand how vital the beaches are to our local economy. We realize it is peak tourist season.”
Pink signs were posted at all the beaches Tuesday warning beachgoers not to enter the water. Parking lots and beach entrances were also blocked with barricades, and delineators were placed every 300 feet along the shoreline with warning signs. Utility staff will canvass the beach to make sure people do not go into the water and the Coast Guard will have vessels patrolling the area.
“People are swimming at their own risk,” a representative of the county said. “There is bacteria in the water that might make them sick with nausea and diarrhea.”
Christopher Boone of Lake Tahoe said his dog, Buddy Rose, was swimming off Secline Beach Tuesday when he was told the beach was closed.
“Someone walked by and said, ‘We got to get people out of the lake because of a sewage spill,'” Boone said. “They got us out of the water. They did a good job.”