Water resources taxed in Squaw: contaminated well reduces options for water | SierraSun.com
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Water resources taxed in Squaw: contaminated well reduces options for water

SHANNON DARLING, Sun News Service

Construction in Olympic Valley is something that can’t be denied.

Take one look at the once-picturesque valley and one will see heavy equipment, lots of dirt and other tell-tale signs of building in progress.

Whether it’s the immense Intrawest project or residential homes, with these many new developments, not only will the valley experience a surge in population, but also an increase demand on the water supply.

“We have customers banging on our door that want water,” said John Moberly of the Squaw Valley Public Service District.

At the current rate, Olympic Valley will have close to 1,400 new homes in the next decade, all straining the 400-acre valley’s water supply.

In anticipation of the surge, the service district has proposed a $7.5 million water treatment plant. But until the plant can be completed, the valley must deal with the water they have now.

“We don’t have water for phase two and three at Intrawest,” said Moberly.

Although the district is in no danger of running out of water now, they do feel something needs to be done and quickly.

Currently the valley gets most of its water from four different wells, most of them located in the Squaw Valley USA parking lot near the Opera House.

The valley would have one more well to draw water from if it weren’t for the ski corporation contaminating one of them with an underground fuel storage tank by the Opera House.

On Tuesday the public service district issued a letter to Squaw Valley Ski Corporation demanding the ski corporation replace the well they contaminated.

“They destroyed our well and I’m sure they don’t contend any different,” said Moberly.

According to Rick Lierman, general manager of the Squaw Valley Public Service District, the contamination of the well occurred from an underground fuel storage tank placed near the Opera House during the Olympics. There is some evidence that the storage tank may have been used up into the 1990s, said Lierman.

“Ski Corp. did as good of job as they could to clean up the contamination,” said Moberly.

But even after the cleanup the well was tested and was considered unusable by a consulting firm that said the well water contained levels of petroleum, that exceeded the California Taste and Odor Threshold.

“The sooner the problem is addressed is of utmost importance to the district,” said Dale Cox of the Squaw Valley Public District.

According to the letter sent to the ski corporation, the well should be replaced before the summer of 2002.

Not only is the increase in development placing a higher demand on the valley’s water supply, but a change in landscaping styles is also demanding more water.

“I’m concerned about what new homes are using,” said Moberly, about the increasing amount of water used on landscaping. “I think their water consumption is going to be tremendous.”

The board agreed about the increased demand on the water supply simply going into landscaping. They agreed it is not unusual to see sod going in every day somewhere in the valley.


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