ZEPHYR COVE - While the state continues to clean up a site in Cave Rock where gasoline compounds leaked into drinking water sources, the trial for a lawsuit that was filed as a result of the contamination has been delayed until early next year, according to the Nevada Attorney General's Office.
Acting on behalf of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the Nevada Attorney General's Office in December 1998 filed a complaint in Douglas County District Court against Robert R. Hager, who owns and leases out the Cave Rock Country Store and gas station.
Hager has filed a series of "third-party complaints" against the store's lessee, a previous owner and others as possible defendants. Charles Meredith, deputy attorney general, said that has slowed the process down, but a trial could happen in February or March 2000.
Hager is accused of violating the Nevada Water Pollution Control Laws and the Nevada Hazardous Materials Storage Tanks Laws for more than a year. NDEP is requesting the maximum civil penalty of $25,000 a day for each day of violating the former regulation and $5,000 for each day of the latter. The trial's presiding judge, if he sides with Nevada, will ultimately determine the amount of the penalty.
"The trial probably won't happen until next year, but there are large penalties involved," Meredith said.
Last year, the underground storage tanks at the site were removed, and NDEP found evidence in the soil of gasoline compounds, including MTBE and benzene.
The complaint filed in Douglas County alleges that as early as January 1997, Hager knew, or should have known, that the underground tank system was leaking. For a year and a half, he never reported any problems to NDEP, which he is required by law to do.
District Judge Michael Gibbons during the summer ruled that NDEP could take over the cleanup at the site because Hager was unable to do it efficiently. The agency has installed a remediation system there, which continues to run. Hager is supposed to reimburse the state for its efforts.
"The advantage of the state stepping in is you don't have to worry about costs," Meredith said. "The state does whatever it takes."
MTBE - methyl tertiary butyl ether - from the contamination has reached a nearby stream that flows directly into Lake Tahoe. Nearby residential wells have also been contaminated, and state officials have been providing bottled water for residents or hooking them into a nearby water system.