Lake Tahoe Nonprofit Finds Toxic Cables That Release Lead At The Bottom Of The Lake; wins the fight for withdrawal | Carson City Nevada News

Eight miles of lead wire weighing about 150,000 pounds was dumped at the bottom of Lake Tahoe decades ago by AT & T’s Pacific Bell Telephone Company.

Under the blue, a local non-profit organization dedicated to removing foreign debris and investigating pollution issues, brought attention to cable in 2020 and has worked diligently with PacBell’s parent company ever since. to remove the cable.

Below the Blue supports the recent federal court-approved settlement between the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and Pacific Bell. As part of the deal, AT&T agreed to remove the leaded telecommunications cable by 2022 and cover all costs of authorization and proper disposal.

The cable leached toxic lead into the lake for decades. PacBell switched to fiber optic telephone cables over 30 years ago and ditched the old cables at the bottom of the lake. The cables contain about 3 pounds of lead per foot and run for 8 miles along the western shore of Lake Tahoe from Baldwin Beach to Rubicon Bay, including across the mouth of Emerald Bay. While removing the trash from the bottom of the lake, Below the Blue founders Seth Jones and Monique Rydel Fortner discovered the cables and brought them to the attention of CSGA.

The magnitude and impact of cable cannot be underestimated. The discovery of cable inspired the founding of Below the Blue. As confirmed in the regulations, PacBell stopped using the cables over thirty years ago. For several years Jones and Fortner conducted independent investigations and tracked the cable’s submarine and aerial journeys.

Signage dates back to the original use of cables as early as the 1930s. Testing confirmed the presence of lead, with conservative estimates of over 60 tonnes. At the time of laying the cables, the long-term impacts of these metals in water were not well understood.

“Now that the risks of such contamination are known, it is unfathomable to continue to expose the residents of Lake Tahoe and millions of visitors to potential harm,” Jones said.

Over the past decade, Jones and Fortner have conducted thousands of dives in Lake Tahoe to clear foreign debris and raise awareness of pollution. Commercial, industrial and personal wastes were left intact at the bottom and throughout Lake Tahoe. Below the Blue is committed to slowing the rate of pollution and being part of a growing movement around the Lake Tahoe Basin to clear debris from the lake and surrounding tributaries.

“This situation was an exceptional example of what is possible when groups come together to have a positive impact. The regulations are a step in the right direction, but the risks to the environment will not be mitigated until the cables are released, ”said Fortner. “The hope is that an ongoing partnership between everyone involved will make kidnapping and disposal a reality. ”

Below the Blue has worked with local agencies, community organizations, the scientific community, and environmental lawyers in a collective effort to address this environmental and conservation issue. The local community, especially the owners of Rubicon Bay, have joined in efforts to advocate for change. AT & T’s commitment to making a tangible impact is welcomed despite the original cable placement decades ago. Their leadership is to be commended and their respect for the local Lake Tahoe community recognized.

The regulations require PacBell to begin the process of obtaining permits from state and local agencies to remove cables. Thereafter, PacBell will issue a tender for the removal process. If the license imposes conditions that push bids beyond $ 1.5 million, CSGA and AT&T will need to re-evaluate and avoid further litigation.

“Lake Tahoe is one of California’s iconic waterways,” said CSGA Executive Director Bill Jennings. “We are proud to provide this impetus to remove toxic waste from the lake. In addition to CSGA, countless other organizations have positively influenced the situation, including the League to Save Lake Tahoe. The League, better known by its iconic tagline Keep Tahoe Blue, has a proven track record in solving tough environmental challenges in Tahoe. “We will continue to work with Below the Blue as watchdogs to make sure AT&T, Tahoe licensing agencies and others are working together to get the cables out of the lake as quickly as possible,” Jesse said. Patterson, League Strategy Director. “What’s crucial is getting the lead out of the water to prevent further damage to our Jewel of the Sierra.”

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