Negligence in paperwork may finger owners, consultant in Tahoe sewage spill

INCLINE VILLAGE - Permits issued to Kings Beach property owners sharing the cost of a private pier, whose construction caused a massive sewage leak earlier this week, were deemed incomplete and did not disclose the main sewer line as part of the easement, environmental officials said Friday.

This negligence, while "not of malicious intent," Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Singlaub, could result in severe fines to any or all of the following parties: Pacific Built, the Tahoe City-based contractor hired to build the pier; property owners Geoff and Christie Davis and Hans and Margaret Coffeng; and Tahoe Vista-based Leah Kaufman Planning and Consulting Services, the firm hired to complete and submit paperwork to local agencies including the TRPA and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Leah Kaufman Planning and Consulting Services did not return calls Friday.

"We permitted the pier," Singlaub said. "Looking back on the paperwork, one of the things that is required in applying for a permit and the responsibility of the applicant is that all known existing easements be recorded on the survey. The known main line for the sewer was not on the permit."

Water quality control board officials said their records revealed a similar omission.

"The property owner has an easement for the sewer line and that was not disclosed," said Lauri Kemper, an engineer and division manager for the water board. "We're going to be asking the consultant about this. Ultimately though the property owner(s) are responsible, not the contractor."

Singlaub said his agency is concerned foremost with helping get the water and surrounding land clean and tested. Fines will come later.

"We'll be following up on this," he said. "This has been a pretty expensive deal for the North Tahoe Public Utility District to clean up. Those trucks are not cheap to hire and workers going around-the-clock is going to cost a lot of money."

The number of gallons of sewage, the amount of additional days the beach will be closed and the potential short- and long-term effects of the spill on the lake and shoreline were not disclosed by officials from the utility district, the water board, and Placer County health and human services on Friday.

Those wanting up-to-date information can call a Placer County hotline dedicated to the sewage spill at (530) 584-1500.


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