Another MTBE gas station to be shut down

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - South Shore gas stations that continue to supply fuel laden with a polluting additive may soon be shut down.

While oil companies have increasingly provided the California side of Lake Tahoe with fuel free of methyl tertiary butyl ether since last April, there are still about five South Shore service stations that have the additive-laden gas.

El Dorado County Supervisor Dave Solaro said he is putting together an ordinance that would give El Dorado County Environmental Management the authority to shut down stations still serving gas containing the controversial fuel additive.

"I certainly feel there's been enough time for them to find new sources of supplies," Solaro said. "It's time to move forward and put a stop to this."

Last year the county and the city of South Lake Tahoe joined a cooperative agreement with the area's primary water supplier, the South Tahoe Public Utility District, which has lost more than a third of its wells because of contamination. The purpose of the new group, the Lake Tahoe Region Water Preservation Authority, was to find a way to get gasoline containing the additive out of the California portion of South Shore.

After the group's inception, however, California Gov. Gray Davis took statewide action regarding the additive, and many local service stations voluntarily started supplying clean fuel. The group last summer decided to take a wait-and-see approach, giving suppliers time to voluntarily serve MTBE-free gas.

"I think now is the time to put teeth in our action and stop it completely," Solaro said.

The El Dorado County supervisor said he has organized a meeting for March 9 with the other two members of the Lake Tahoe Region Water Preservation Authority: City Council member Judy Brown and Pembroke Gochnauer, vice president of the South Tahoe Public Utility District board of directors.

Solaro wants to get concurrence from that board before bringing the ordinance before county supervisors.

Gordon Schremp of the California Energy Commission said that the state earlier this month updated its list of Tahoe gas stations still selling fuel containing the additive. Five told the state they still used MTBE: the Roadrunner in Meyers; Lake Tahoe Gas and Wash, Stop N' Save and Tahoe Tom's in South Lake Tahoe; and the Swiss Mart on Emerald Bay Road.

A rule went into effect in December 1999 that requires all service stations in California to label their pumps. When the state checked earlier this month, Schremp said, the Swiss Mart and Stop N' Save did not have labels.

Methyl tertiary butyl ether is a gasoline additive considered a possible human carcinogen. It has contaminated as many as 14,000 groundwater sites in the state, including several on the south shore of Tahoe. Gov. Davis in March 1999 ordered the Energy Commission to work with oil companies to get the additive out of Tahoe's gas as soon as possible.

Tahoe now is one of the few places in California with mostly MTBE-free gasoline.


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