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GM's Penalty for Water Pollution Was Too Light

March 20, 1994

* I live near what is left of the Los Angeles River and understand the importance of this and other water sources for local wildlife and public use. Clean, open water is rare in this dry, urban region, so I feel any pollution of our watershed is of critical importance. For this reason I must comment on your article "Judge Finds GM Guilty in Waste Water Dumping Case" (March 3).

General Motors dumped 17,000 gallons of chemically contaminated and toxic water into the sensitive Tujunga Wash and the Los Angeles River watershed. However, the corporation was fined only $9,594.

GM probably spends more than that sum on stationery supplies each year. Such a paltry penalty does nothing to discourage environmental polluters. On the contrary, it makes dumping toxic waste an attractive risk. Fines become merely an unexpected cost of doing business.

Will $9,594 pay for cleaning up this spill and assuring that the wash is safe and clean for people and wildlife? Is any restoration of the wash planned?

The only way to reduce pollution is to throw the book at the few violators that somehow get caught. GM and other guilty corporate polluters should be fined in amounts commensurate with their profits and at a level that really hurts. Only then will they be motivated to stop their harmful actions.

LORI L. PAUL

Hollywood

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