West shore doesn’t want to pay for bad water
August 7, 2006
Water rates may more than triple for consumers of the Skyland-Nielsen water system on Tahoe’s west shore, but many residents are still unsure if the water is safe to drink.
Nielsen residents in the Hurricane Bay area and Skyland residents just south of there are served by the Tahoe Park Water Company. Their rates may go up from $275 to a total of $893 per year for a single-family residence or small business sized account.
“If we can’t drink the water now, why pay more for it,” said resident Annie Lang. “In March my hair turned orange and my whole family got sick from the water.”
Lang also blamed the water supply for causing squirrels she was caring for to throw up and the yellowish-brown water that filled her toilet.
“We all drink bottled water now, including the dog,” she said.
Lang said customers weren’t given notice that Tahoe Water Park Company was working on the water system.
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Resident Jeff Pelline has been a sounding board for many of the residents complaining of sickness, discoloring hair and sludgy water.
“There has been double-talk, not enough information and not enough communication; [the water company owner] could be a better corporate citizen,” Pelline said.
Two-thirds of the proposed rate increase is due to the change-over costs from lake water to well water, Tahoe Water Park Company owner Rick Dewante said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 1991 rule mandating surface water filtration for municipal water is why the company switched to well water, he said.
“Installing a filtration system for the lake water would have been cost prohibitive,” Dewante said.
First, the company tried to refurbish an old well but it did not produce enough output, so it drilled a new one, Dewante said.
Residents are saying it doesn’t make sense to not use the lake’s water. They also want to know why they weren’t given more say in the decision to switch.
Additionally, they want to know why rates were not raised gradually to cover costs, Pelline said.
“In my opinion [Dewante] kind of bet on the wrong horse and now we are having to pay the price,” said Pelline.
According to the commission, the staff will investigate the petition to raise rates. They will then grant the rate increase in whole, in part, or may deny it. It may also order the utility to charge a different rate from those requested by the owner.
Also of some concern to residents is cloriform bacteria that was found in their water in November of last year, Pelline said. A water sample also tested positive for copper.
The action level for the sample is only slightly above mandated levels and probably not dangerous, said Environmental Protection Agency representative Veronica Blette.
“In the short term copper causes gastrointestinal problems,” she said. “The long-term effects are kidney damage.”
The California Public Utility Commission hearing on the Skyland-Nielsen water system rate increase proposal:
6 p.m. Aug. 8, at the Fairway Community Center, 330 Fairway Drive, Tahoe City