Lawsuit threatens future Lake Tahoe fireworks

By Kathryn Reed

Fireworks at Lake Tahoe may come down to tourism vs. the environment.

There is no question the twice annual fireworks show shot from barges on Lake Tahoe on the South Shore are a crowd pleaser on July 4 and Labor Day weekend. But the piles of debris collected afterward and the perchlorate entering the water are another story.

A lawsuit has been filed by Joan and Joseph Truxler of Zephyr Cove against Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Pyro Spectaculars. Pyro has been putting on the Lake Tahoe shows for 30 years. LTVA is the lead agency responsible for paying for the fireworks shows that cost upward of $100,000 each.

Fireworks at Lake Tahoe are rated some of the best in country. Photo/Howie Nave

Fireworks at Lake Tahoe are rated some of the best in the country. Photo/Howie Nave

These are the two biggest fireworks shows in the Lake Tahoe Basin. However, there are other shows around the lake during July 4 that are mostly tied to municipalities celebrating Independence Day as well as private fireworks displays throughout the year. The South Shore pyrotechnics are in South Lake Tahoe, but the current can take debris into Nevada.

LTVA has divers collect debris, most of which is cardboard because that is what explosives are stuffed into. The material is also plucked from the surface of the lake.

“These are pollutants that people are consciously shooting into the lake,” Mike Lozeau, the attorney representing the Truxlers, told Lake Tahoe News. “The Truxlers are not interested in stopping the events. They just don’t want to pick up trash.”

Although the fireworks company picked up more than a dozen bags of trash after the July event, the Truxlers reportedly spent days picking up trash on Pinewild beach. They were doing the same in September after that show.

They have owned their house since 1999 and have been full-time residents since 2006, according to the lawsuit.

However, this is the first year they or anyone has complained to LTVA about trash from the fireworks.

“At this point because of the litigation we are not able to offer additional details or comments,” Carol Chaplin, executive director of LTVA, told Lake Tahoe News.

A goal of the lawsuit, according to Lozeau, it to have the fireworks permitted by Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board in California and/or Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

The lawsuit claims the Clean Water Act is being violated. Court documents state, “Both the state of California and the state of Nevada have established water quality standards strictly prohibiting floating debris on Lake Tahoe and other waters. California’s water quality standards provide that ‘[w]aters shall not contain floating material, including solids, liquids, foams, and scum, in concentrations that cause nuisance or adversely affect the water for beneficial uses.’”

Lahontan after the July 2001 display monitored the water, but has not done so since then. On July 4, 2001, 63 micrograms per liter of perchlorate were found. This is 10 times the amount the federal government says should be in water. However, 12 hours later non-detectable levels of perchlorate were found in the same location.

Lauri Kemper with Lahontan told Lake Tahoe News that because the perchlorate had dissipated her agency determined there were no long-term effects to the lake from the chemical.

She added that no one has asked for a fireworks permit. If they were to do so, that is something the Lahontan board would have to address.

Nevada also does not issue fireworks permits.

“The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection encourages the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and its contractors to continue compliance with any applicable local permits, plans or requirements. NDEP does not require additional oversight of the twice a year firework displays,” JoAnn Kittrell with the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources told Lake Tahoe News.

Jeff Cowen with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency said his agency also does not issue any permits for the fireworks shows.

Mediation is the next step for both sides; however, a date has not been set.

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Comments (45)
  1. Jeff says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    For the amount of money you are going to spend to
    file the lawsuit and go to court you could fund and create a non-profit to hire divers to achieve your clean up goals for 10 years. People would respect you
    for a positive save Tahoe action instead of disliking you for hurting Tahoe’s economy.

  2. Dogula says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    I’m surprised they live on the NV side. They sound like Californians.

  3. tony colombo says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    I am certain the next step is to remove those pesky boats that constitute “floating debris”. And that “snow making thing”. Another violation of the “clean water act”, adding more “floating debris”
    Wake up folks- The elitists are ginning it up again……….

  4. Irish Wahini says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    People who file lawsuits without first addressing the issue (filing a complaint – which they did not do before the suit), are thoughtless!!! I hope this couple comes around and does the right thing – communicate with LTVA and find a SOLUTION that works. I agree with Jeff – what a waste of money to file suit, and threaten Tahoe’s already fragile economy. I can’t imagine being a neighbor to these folks, who would probably sue you if your grass crossed the property line. Find your attorney another project…

  5. sunriser2 says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    The Pinewild condo project blocks my view of the lake. It should be torn down.

  6. Irish Wahini says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Sunriser 2 – you made my day!

  7. Local says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Owned our house since 99′ and lived here full time since 06′, now we are experts on what is good for our town and lake. Mr and Mrs Truxler, move.

  8. suspicious mind says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Some good investigative journalism regarding the Truxlers and their agenda would be appreciated Kae. Do you have the time?
    There something rotten in Denmark or maybe the Truxlers are just plain nutty or publicity hounds.
    Again, there is more than meets the eye here and the public should be made aware of what it is.

  9. Barbara says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Filing a law suit before talking……how sad.

    Definitely agree with Jeff’s comments.

  10. copper says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Rent an attorney and buy a few politicians and you’ll rule the world. And deserve to.

    All you need is the money.

  11. dumbfounded says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Meditation, not mediation, might be helpful here as well. Absent meditation, the Tuxlers might try medication, or more fiber…

  12. bronco billy says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    since we are talking fireworks, who were the morons responsible for the near military assault level fireworks invasion on the end of clement street, gardner mountain area, on new years’ eve? i am not against a little fun, but even aside from non permitted fireworks being strictly illegal in the basin, the level of this discharge was a sign of absolute disrespect by the perpetrators for residents and environment.

  13. Arod says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    So its OK to pollute the Lake as long as it brings in tourist dollars? If the Truxlers want to spend their money on a law suit so be it. It looks like all the agencies that should have oversight on the fireworks are looking the other way. The suit will force them to address the violations.

  14. BR says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    For those of you critical of the Truxlers, maybe you should have been down on the beaches in Marla Bay to see the large amount of fireworks debris that washed in. Folks who had lived on the bay for decades had never seen anything like it.

  15. tony colombo says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Just wait until the pollen invades your shoreline!

  16. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    any of you folks remember 1979 ?

    no fireworks on the South Shore

    the City could not pay the $ 5,000.00

    we went to Tahoe City that evening had a great time

    maybe old Carol should send here crew out to do a better job of cleaning up on July 5th

  17. Moral Hazard says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    BR so one year in decades is a reason to shut down the fun for everyone? Pretty self centered isn’t it?

  18. Kostask says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Did these guys have their fence that blocked the beach from the public removed by law? Maybe that is why they are pissed. Its like the beach at Ski Run Marina. That fence went into the water and was against the law. It has now been removed.

  19. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Is everyone done dog piling on the Truxlers? Probably not but I say lets turn this into a positve. Maybe LTVA needs to get more divers for the submerged debris, maybe a group of volunteers could walk the shore line picking up the stuff thats washed ashore. Lets pull together as a community to take care of this. No one wants to pollute our beautiful lake but sometimes it takes a little extra effort to keep it clean.
    Personally, I love the fireworks over the lake. Sittin’ in a boat anchored close to the barge, watching a great fireworks display, feeling the repercusion in your chest with the lights reflecting on the water. Man it’s a blast (bad pun intended).
    So lets work together with LTVA and some of the enviromental groups and agencies to keep lights on the lake going but in such a way as to rid the lake of the aftermath. Just my thoughts.
    Now take a number and wait your turn to ridicule and insult me (a popular past time for some here on LTN).
    As always, Old Long Skiis

  20. cosa pescado says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    “I’m surprised they live on the NV side. They sound like Californians.”

    Read the article.

    They sound like people who don’t like the land around them littered, and respect the earth.
    God created the earth a few thousand years ago, not just for you, but for everyone. You need to respect the creation of Angry Sky Man. OR ELSE!

  21. cheepseats says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    A one-minute search of these folks turns up plenty. In fact, there’s a photo of the collected debris on a relative’s social media page …

  22. Corn husker says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    I think everyone enjoys polluting this lake. Have fun trying to Save it..

  23. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Old Long Skiis:

    Thanks for suggesting a solution. Such a refreshing change from the usual negativity and bitching from which so many posters on this site seem to experience great joy. Happy New Year and congrats on your new canine companion adoptee that you reported on a short while back. All my rescue dogs have been phenomenal!

  24. Ridiculousness says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    OLS – you’re completely right, there should be a volunteer group to be disbursed out the few days after fireworks. Maybe LTVA could setup a hotline or website to report areas that have received debris so the clean up crews can go there.

    I also found a news video from back in July about the incident:

    and also a LTN article, which only earned 3 comments at the time….

  25. huh says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    so.. I see a gape drop some trash and leave it. I proceed to pick up the trash out of my own free will. I then get the gapes contact info and sew them for littering on public land. Make sense? These people need to get a life.

  26. sunriser2 says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    What happened to the trash from the Snow Globe and Heavenly Village firework display?

    How many people rented condos at the lake view project to watch the fireworks”?

    Also how come the HOA didn’t clean the beach at Pinewild? God knows they charge enough.

    Dog more often than not I agree with you but the Glenbrook area zip code has more law suits than most places in the country.

  27. Ken Curtzwiler says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    OLS & Ridiculousness; Volunteers do not work when it comes to cleaning up the lake after the 4th of July and I should know. I pay my workers and I volunteer my time, trucks and trailers to clean up the El Dorado Beach area and Regan Beach and have done so for the past 16 years. I have provided coffee, donuts and gloves to all who show up and help. I have put it in the paper (my own cost) asking for volunteers and in 16 years have gotten only one. Last year the League sponsored a volunteer clean up and everyone went to the beach behind Bal Bijou. They contacted me to work together but didn’t want to show up until 9 am. We have to start or have started at 6 am due to the traffic. No one wants to get up early and certainly not inconvenienced when saving the environment. Everyone wants major kudos for doing what we should be doing anyway. My suggestion is to just do it like I do. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. The folks at Pinewild could certainly clean up the mess by having someone pay for it but certainly not them. You are right about involving the LTVA and they should be involved with the aftermath but getting volunteers? Good Luck. I can also see Pinewilds point where they feel that a lawsuit is the only action for inaction.

  28. ChrisO says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    How about don’t watch if you don’t like it. You cannot see the fireworks at Stateline from Zephyr Cove anyway. For over 30 yrs there has been no issues, no reports of poisoning the water, no nothing. But now they have an issue? Gimme a break!

  29. rock4tahoe says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Ok. If the perchlorate simply dissipates after the show, then it boils down to the cardboard debris from the exploded ordinance. Since they currently keep a healthy distance from the barge to the boats watching the show, how about some sort of netting/mesh around the barge out to the safe zone perimeter to catch the debris that can roll up after the show?

  30. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    Ken Curtzwiler & huh. Ken, sorry to hear you haven’t had much luck with getting volunteers for clean up duty, on the the other hand I’m glad to know your still at it and have a commitment to the community and the beautiful place in which we live. Keep up the good work!!! YOU are making a difference and thats what counts!
    huh, I must apologize for not understanding what a gape is and why you would sew for them after picking up their litter. Sure, I’m an old fuddy duddy but please explain these terms for me. I Gotta stay hip doncha know. OLS

  31. Ken Curtzwiler says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    lol gape is short for gaper “A gaper is a skier or snowboarder who is completely clueless”

  32. BitterClinger says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    I guarantee you that the plaintiffs are registered democrats.

    This is why I have great disdain for liberals; they’re a miserable bunch that want to force their way of life upon you.

  33. Know Bears says - Posted: January 7, 2014

    BitterClinger: LOL! That’s exactly what folks on the left say about folks on the right — that they want to force their way of life on everyone! Too funny!

    Maybe we ought to stop zinging each other and start talking. And listening.

  34. SeaMoore says - Posted: January 8, 2014

    How come people have such a hard time picking up trash? Really, a lawsuit? I wonder who the Truxlers call when a water bottle washes up on their beach? “Pigs, drinking water on my lake, lets sue the bottled water company and ban water drinking”. Next year just close their beach for the event and cover it with tarps or a big net.

  35. go figure says - Posted: January 8, 2014

    Bitterclinger, is cj and pub your dad? Or maybe its just another name for the same garbage?
    my experience is the tea people are the biggest litter bugs.

  36. Joby says - Posted: January 9, 2014

    Newbies come to town and decide it’s there job to save the world?!?! As a fishing guide on the lake every 5th of July at 5:30 am before the wind blows there is very little debris left behind and myself and clients will pull out of the water what we come across. My advice as I have never considered a lawsuit, for anything is sell your property and move to a place that doesn’t have a history of more than 50 years of celebration. Unfortunately our society allows for two people to create a negative from a positive that at times more than 50,000 enjoy. Move, far away and take your lawsuit with you! We have much bigger issues to deal with. Compromise is something that has been a big problem in Tahoe for many years. Finally groups that never spoke are coming together to solve problems. Then we have this? Ridiculous……….

  37. cosa pescado says - Posted: January 10, 2014

    “This is why I have great disdain for liberals; they’re a miserable bunch that want to force their way of life upon you”

    Kind of like right wing conservative Angry Sky Mantians.

    My way of life is to not litter. I don’t want to deal with your litter.
    That makes me miserable.
    Great logic.

  38. Tahoe Blue Sailor says - Posted: January 10, 2014

    Maybe it is time to sue all of those people who move here to escape the city life and then sue to change things up here since we po little mountain folk ain’t smart enough to take care of the lake ourselves. It reminds me of the San Jose mayor in the 70′s who felt that all the bay area mayors should come together to govern the Tahoe Basin. Not to long after her proposal, San Jose was caught dumping raw sewage into SF Bay.

  39. A.B. says - Posted: January 16, 2014

    North Lake Tahoe is now planning a massive fireworks display. Nice work Mr. & Mrs. Truxler; you won, the south shore loses.

  40. cosa pescado says - Posted: January 16, 2014

    So AB, the South shore fireworks are cancelled?
    Or are you just throwing a tantrum?

  41. sunriser2 says - Posted: January 16, 2014

    Attention W—–s couldn’t wait for the HOA to clean the beach? Had to beat them to it for the photo op.

  42. Gaspen Aspen says - Posted: January 18, 2014

    They need to head a volunteer clean up group, or move back to where they came from and irritate those people again.

  43. dmdogg says - Posted: February 4, 2014

    After reading all the posts regarding this lawsuit, I feel compelled to respond. first, I know the truxlers. they are the most descent, caring, thoughtful individuals you will ever meet. they would think nothing of giving the clothes off their backs if you were in need. They are passionate about lake Tahoe and love and respect the land and wildlife. Imagine after every 4 of July, picking up bags and bags of trash on the beach that you like to recreate at. Well, the truxler’s spend hours cleaning the beaches….can you say that about yourselves? do you do the back-breaking work for hours on the beach picking up trash after the 4th? after many years and so much trash and nothing being done about it, they filed a lawsuit. I would of done the same thing. you should be proud of people who live in your town, who want to protect our beautiful environment and clear waters, instead of bashing them. doesn’t matter if you are democrat or republican, what matters is having the guts to make a difference and do something about a problem. I can say I totally respect the truxler’s for what they are doing and want to achieve. I applaud them for standing up and making a difference. I for one will appreciate their efforts the next time I’m down at that beach!

  44. A.B. says - Posted: February 4, 2014

    I have no respect for the Truxlers. They made no effort to resolve this problem in lieu of litigation.

    And quite candidly, their lawsuit may end the best rated fireworks show in the western U.S. If that happens, the negative economic impact upon this region would be huge.

    How do you think the community will feel when they are impacted by the Truxler’s litigation? If I were the Truxler’s, I wouldn’t want to show my face in this town.

    Litigation is only used once you have exhausted all other opportunities, and the Truxler’s failed to really pursue this matter with the LTVA. Had they done so, I am confident that it would have been addressed appropriately. Nobody wants litter on the beach, but there are means other than litigation which would have reached a mutually beneficial resolution in lieu of an adversarial outcome.

  45. Dogula says - Posted: February 4, 2014

    dmdogg, you say they are these wonderful people who would give you the shirt off their back? If that were true, why are they trying to destroy something that is so very vital to this town?
    They’ve moved here permanently now, so they want to change it. No attempt to work with the locals who have been here forever, we want what we want, and we want it NOW.
    How freakin’ typical.
    That is NOT being a good neighbor. That is being an elitist A$$.