Our View: Learning lessons from a crisis
January 21, 2007
The hubbub over the Kings Beach sewage spill continues.
And that might not be a bad thing.
While we hope the finger pointing is finished, the aftermath of the sewer line rupture that spilled an estimated 56,000 gallons of effluent may still have a couple more lessons to teach us.
So far we’ve learned a lot in the months that followed the January 2005 accident.
– We learned that guessing the amount of sewage spilled from a sewer line is an imprecise science, or at least was in this instance. Nearly a year after the spill, the amount of sewage reported to have spilled was reduced by more than half.
– We learned about the importance of calling the underground utility locator hotline ” no matter what.
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– We learned that permitting processes, even when they take nearly four years, don’t catch all intricacies ” as when underground sewer lines are located on the project site but are not identified as present.
– And we found out that the North Tahoe Public Utility District could add equipment that would make a response to a sewage spill much more effective. This equipment was awarded to the district in the settlement over the spill.
Now, with the North Tahoe Public Utility District unanimously approving an investigation regarding its response to the sewage spill, North Tahoe locals can rest assured that their elected representatives are doing everything they can to be as prepared as possible for the next time an emergency arises.
That’s a good thing. A look back through the pages of yesteryears’ Tahoe World newspapers will show that sewage spills are not altogether uncommon at Lake Tahoe.
There’s no such thing as being over-prepared. And already, the district is readying to cope with the next crisis whenever it may come. Soon they will train their employees to use the new equipment awarded in the settlement.
We applaud the PUD for squeezing the good out of a bad situation, and for not being afraid to evaluate their procedures. That said, it was Pacific Built Inc., the contractor that punctured the sewer line, that instigated the review of the whole accident response by circulating a petition on the North Shore.
No matter who was pushing for a review, the public deserves the most prepared emergency responders, and we believe this process of investigation and assessment can only improve the emergency response of the hard-working, competent staff of the utility district.