South Lake Tahoe Taking Steps to Handle Growing Water Contaminat - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

South Lake Tahoe Taking Steps to Handle Growing Water Contamination Problem

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A plume of groundwater stretching about 400 acres near the South Tahoe "Y" (where Hwy 50 and Hwy 89 meet) is contaminated with Tetracholroethylene, or PCE.

PCE was commonly used as a dry cleaning solvent and for degreasing metal before the EPA deemed it a probable carcinogen and a toxic pollutant in 1989. Since the EPA has set a maximum contamination level (MCL) for PCE particles in water, South Tahoe Public Utility District has been dealing with contaminated groundwater.

While this has been an ongoing problem, all water used in the area is safe to drink and to bathe in. The most recent contamination happened in 2014, when two of the three wells operated by Lukins Brothers Water Co. were found to have unsafe levels of PCE. Those wells were immediately taken out of service, and Lukins Brother Water Co. began using STPUD water supply.

"The contaminated wells were taken offline as soon as the contamination was discovered," Jennifer Lukins, Assistant Manager for Lukins Brothers Water Co. said. "So it is a concern because it is the groundwater which we need to utilize and would like to utilize, but we're able to use other sources in unaffected areas right now."

Despite two fewer wells, South Lake Tahoe residents don't need to do anything differently right now. If the city's water supply is hit with more problems though, there could be noticeable consequences.

"The Lukins demand is now on our system using our backup supply," Richard Solbrig, General Manager for STPUD, said. "So if we have problems, mechanical problems or any other problems with our wells, we're in a situation where we're going to end up potentially being short on our water supply, because we're allowing Lukins to use our backup supply."

Wednesday night STPUD, Lukins Brothers Water Co. and Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association hosted a public meeting at the city council chambers, to get feedback for the public on a new test the district hopes is a long-term solution. It involves drilling a well in an area with the highest known contamination.

"We're going to pump that contaminated well," Solbrig said. "And we're going try to determine what's the best pumping rate, what's the best depth in order to start drawing the plume back towards an extraction point so it doesn't continue to spread out."

The district needs to hold at least one public meeting in order to apply for a grant from the state that would fund the project. Though the district has met that requirement, they plan on holding two more meetings, one in June, and one in Fall.

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