In cooperation with the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the underwater environmentalists are working to stop the illicit practice of using Lake Tahoe as a construction site dumpster.
“‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is not the answer for Tahoe. It’s a recipe for wrecking the Lake," said Seth Jones, co-founder of Below the Blue. “Having shoreline homes, piers and recreational opportunities is a privilege that shouldn’t be abused by dumping trash in the Lake. Carelessly dropping a pair of sunglasses off the boat is one thing; intentionally pushing construction materials into the water is much more egregious. It’s up to the property owners and the construction crews to do better.”
For more than a decade, the scuba divers and co-founders of the Tahoe-based nonprofit Below the Blue have removed more than 100,000 pounds of foreign objects from the lake. Over countless dives, one source of submarine trash stands out as persistent but preventable – debris from shoreline building projects.
A U.S. judge in Sacramento recently signed the consent decree in the suit the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed in January. The abandoned cables — replaced with fiber optic ones in the 1980s — contain more than 65 tons (59 metric tonnes) of toxic lead that is polluting the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line, the lawsuit said.
A sailboat filled with more than 3,000 pounds of trash, fuel, paint and other chemicals in South Lake Tahoe has now been removed. "It was a long process," the California State Parks told KCRA 3. The boat was left by its owner last summer, according to the California State Parks. The owner then refused to remove it in November when asked. Looming December storms heightened the risk that the boat would spill trash into the clear waters of the lake, and officials "decided to work with (their) partners."
AT&T’s Pac Bell subsidiary has settled a lawsuit conservationists filed under a U.S. law more typically cited in Superfund cases, agreeing to spend up to $1.5 million to remove 8 miles of toxic telephone cables that were abandoned on the bottom of Lake Tahoe decades ago.
Recognizing the potential and significant environmental damage an abandoned boat can cause, Sierra District, along with environmental consulting firm Marine Taxonomic Services and nonprofit Below the Blue, teamed up to clean out and dispose of a sailboat left in Emerald Bay.
Below the Blue, a local nonprofit that is dedicated to removing foreign debris and investigating pollution problems, brought attention to the cable in 2020, and has been working diligently with PacBell’s parent company to get the cable removed ever since.
A court settlement between the company and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance ended with Pacific Bell agreeing to remove the leaded cables and cover all costs for permitting and proper disposal.
The lines, discovered by divers and brought to authority’s attention by local nonprofit Below the Blue in 2020, had been abandoned by the company over 30 years ago.
Eight miles of abandoned telephone cable laid off the West Shore of Lake Tahoe were ordered removed under a settlement, according to a federal court decree. Pac Bell stopped using the cables in the 1980s. In a suit filed by California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, the cables are leaching lead into the lake.
Earlier this month, the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of California's waters, received a settlement in a lawsuit it filed in January in the United States District Court against AT&T subsidiary Pacific Bell.
Reno: AT&T’s Pac Bell subsidiary has settled a lawsuit conservationists filed under a U.S. law more typically cited in Superfund cases, agreeing to spend up to $1.5 million to remove 8 miles of toxic telephone cables that were abandoned on the bottom of Lake Tahoe decades ago. The abandoned cables – replaced with fiber optic ones in the 1980s – contain more than 65 tons of toxic lead that is polluting the alpine lake on the California-Nevada line, the lawsuit said. In addition to violating water quality protections, the suit said the more than 3 pounds of lead per foot of cable constitutes solid waste regulated under the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Pac Bell knew the cables it owned and operated contained lead that eventually would leak into the 1,644-foot-deep lake, the lawsuit said. Lead in both solid and dissolved forms is listed as known to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity, it said. “All of the cables are damaged and discharging lead into Lake Tahoe,” the lawsuit said. Initial cost estimates for cable removal range from $275,000 to $550,000. But Pac Bell agreed to deposit $1.5 million in an account to guard against overruns, according to the settlement U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremy Peterson signed Nov. 4.
Divers discovered the abandoned cables in 2012 as they were removing trash from the bottom of Lake Tahoe. That discovery led to years of work, first to discover what the cables were, who they belonged to, and what they were doing to the lake.
Nonprofits and public agency team up to tackle underwater construction debris at Lake Tahoe (pdf)Download
Consent Decree Signed by Judge (pdf)Download
Telephone Company to Remove Toxic Underwater Cable from Lake Tahoe (pdf)Download
Toxic Underwater Cable (pdf)Download
The Cables Leaking Lead in Lake Tahoe_Moonshine Ink (pdf)Download