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Contractor Fined for Illegal Discharge Into Crystal Cove

August 18, 2000|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Marriott Ownership Resorts contractor paid a $31,700 fine to regional water officials for illegally discharging tainted water into the ocean off Crystal Cove State Park.

R.D. Olson Construction of Irvine paid the fine earlier this month for a 7,000-gallon discharge that flowed into a tributary of Los Trancos Creek, which empties into the Pacific Ocean at the state park. The water, which was being used to hose down a time-share construction site, contained heavy metals, detergent, suspended solids and sediment.

"It was clear violation . . . and a rather deliberate act," said Kurt Berchtold, assistant executive officer of the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board. "They clearly should have known better."

The discharge occurred in June on a 70-acre site above the state park that will house 700 time-shares by 2009.

Olson and Marriott officials declined to comment.

Berchtold said there was no known significant environmental harm, but he said such polluted water can be toxic to marine life.

This is the third fine paid this year for illegal discharges into the pristine ocean and reefs off Crystal Cove, which are dolphin birthing grounds and designated by the state as an "area of special biological significance."

* In May, Pelican Hill Golf Course paid regional officials $108,000 and gave $40,000 to an Orange County CoastKeeper kelp project for eight discharges of nearly 16 million gallons of recycled water between August 1999 and January.

* In January, an Irvine Co. contractor paid a $22,030 fine for releasing 3,500 gallons of chlorinated water in 1999.

The frequency of illegal discharges worries some environmentalists, especially in light of the recent approval for the Irvine Co. to build 635 homes above the park.

"It really points to the obvious problem that nobody's watching the store," said Susan Jordan, a board member with the League for Coastal Protection.

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