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Placer reports progress on Serene Lakes propane leaks

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County was reporting progress Monday in an effort to plug Serene Lakes propane leaks but there are still five properties considered active. Since the first leaks were discovered in March, 38 leaks have been reported in Serene Lakes. The five leaks that remain active include sites where remediation work has either not been completed or inspections of that work and final signoffs by fire officials have not happened. Jill Pahl, environmental health division director, said two of the leaks are recently discovered and addresses for owners are being tracked down. Two others should have a final letter of clearance by Tuesday. And the fifth site still has access challenges as the county coordinates with several utilities and a cable provider on wires near the tank, she said. The Serene Lakes community contains about 850 residences, mostly used as vacation homes. About 80 percent use propane for heating and cooking. Heavy snowpack put excess pressure on exterior propane systems causing numerous leaks and forcing the closure of dozens of residences. But as temperatures rise and the accumulation of snowpack melts, a team of Placer agencies including the Truckee Fire Protection District and the Placer County Office of Emergency Services, is continuing to monitor and act on leaks in the Sierra community. An abatement order issued by County Executive Officer Tom Miller April 14 requires property owners of homes affected by leaking propane to take immediate action to remedy the situation. The county will seek a court order to have a contractor do the work if it isn’t done in an expeditious manner. The county issued the order days after an unoccupied Serene Lakes house was destroyed by a propane-fueled blast. Another unoccupied home on the west shore of the Lake Tahoe basin was also damaged in a separate explosion. No one was injured in either incident, although in the Serene Lakes case, debris was hurled hundreds of feet by the blast. County spokesman Mike Fitch said Monday that there has been no move to seek a court order. “We have very cooperative property owners who taken it upon themselves to abate,” Fitch said. – Gus Thomson