RENO, Nev. (AP) — Joseph and Joan Truxler knew they were headed for some rough waters when they decided last fall the only way to stop tourism officials from polluting Lake Tahoe with fireworks debris on the Fourth of July was to sue them under the Clean Water Act.
"We never wanted a lawsuit," said Joan Truxler, who added she is "hopeful" a settlement conference planned in Sacramento on Monday will help resolve the emotional dispute. "We do not want to stop the fireworks."
But backers of the 30-year-old holiday tradition are accusing the Zephyr Cove couple of trying to do just that, and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority has decided that if a settlement agreement cannot be reached by Friday, they'll pull the plug on their sponsorship of the spectacular display they say helps pump more than $30 million into the local economy.
"It would be a travesty, tragedy and financial disaster if these fireworks were canceled," said Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who also serves as chairman of the Nevada Commission on Tourism.
"Let's do what we need to make sure it's right," he said at a meeting Thursday night in Stateline before the authority's board set the deadline.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento in November says the authority and Pyro Spectaculars North Inc. of Rialta, Calif., should be subject to up to $75 million in fines for making illegal discharges in the lake without a permit.
The authority insists it is not required to obtain a permit. But its lawyer said fighting the lawsuit in court could bankrupt the agency.
"The risks to the LTVA are so overwhelming it would be better to get out of the fireworks business," Lew Feldman said.
The lawsuit accuses the authority and Pyro Spectaculars of violating the Clean Water Act thousands of times over the past five years by discharging trash, debris, munitions and chemical residues — including perchlorate, nitrate and sulfur — into the lake twice a year on July 4 and Labor Day.
Since last July, the Truxlers say they have gathered 8,000 pieces of fireworks pollution, much of it with Pyro Spectaculars' name on it.
Pyro Spectacular has produced large-scale pyrotechnic displays for Super Bowls, Olympics, Disneyland, the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge since it was founded in 1979. Crews begin to clear the surface of the lake soon after the show, and divers are sent below to retrieve visible debris from the lake bed. But the lawsuit contends those efforts are ineffective.
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