A Shameful Screw-Up

It pays to pollute at Malibu's Paradise Cove

The L.A. Regional Water Board issued a shocking order Tuesday to allow the Kissel Co. to walk away nearly scot free despite its involvement in hundreds of water quality violations at Paradise Cove in Malibu over the past decade. Paradise Cove has long been one of the most polluted beaches in Santa Monica Bay. The mobile park, which is owned and operated by Kissel, has been one of the largest sources of fecal pollution to the beach. Raw sewage from the park has frequently spilled in the street. The Kissel Co. has failed to build a new on-site sewage treatment plant and sewers for over a decade despite the issuance of numerous Time Schedule Orders with an array of compliance deadlines.

How did the most egregious serial Bay polluter of the 21st century get away with so many violations?

The Regional Water Board staff and attorneys made some egregious errors of their own in enforcing the case. Picture a serial felon getting released on probation because the police failed to read the accused his Miranda rights. That’s what happened here.

Due to administrative errors in how the enforcement mechanisms were structured, the initial recommended fine of $1.65 million was whittled down to $54,500.

Because of the technical mistakes, the Kissel Co. saved over a million dollars in penalties and even more millions in the opportunity cost gained by not upgrading, operating and maintaining a First World wastewater treatment system for a decade. It definitely pays to pollute.

The Board should be ashamed and Steve Dahlberg, who leads the Kissel Co., owes the public and the local community an apology and more. All of those men, women and children that got sick from swimming in the sewage polluted waters of Paradise Cove in the last 10 years have the Regional Board and the Kissel Co. to thank.

The right thing for the Kissel Co. to do would be to donate a million dollars to a water quality protection group like the Bay Restoration Commission or to the city of Malibu for its Civic Center wastewater treatment system. Company execs have made out like bandits already. If they had any conscience at all, they’d give generously to make up for all the years of putting public health at risk.

4 Responses

  1. Could you please tell me about Howard Bennett – the REAL FOUNDER OF HEAL THE BAY.

  2. This problem must be addressed, I live next door to Paradise cove and have been infected numerious times. My Father died from septic shock due to ecoli. When will the restaurant stop illegally expanding? When will the moble homes have individual water meters installed so that there is a motivation to cycle less water through the septic system? When will this health issue be resolved?

  3. Not sure why you’re blaming Board staff for the decrease in fines. Based on your own June 11th blog entry, “At around 2:30, after watching the excellent prosecution presentation by Regional Board staff and part of the Kissel Co. defense, I left for the day thinking the enforcement hearing was well in hand.”

    It would appear that the fault lies with past legislatures for not properly defining the penalties associated with violations of time schedule orders in Porter Cologne. Board staff can only work within the laws that they’ve been given and based on your previous blog entry, your own ranking of that effort was ‘excellent.’

  4. First, I have always been impressed by how relatively pristine Southern California beaches and oceans are, considering how bad they could be, and I attribute the dedication to sanitation in large part to you and your organization– so thanks!

    To the point at hand, is there any chance that the City of Malibu will take separate action against Kissel? Is there any legal wiggle-room for that? It seems to me that the City of Malibu has generally been much better than the county boards at protecting Paradise Cove and the oceans in general (the Paradise Cove stormwater treatment project, for example, was recently funded by Malibu: http://www.ci.malibu.ca.us/download/index.cfm/fuseaction/download/cid/14507/ )– from your vantage point, is there any hope of Malibu stepping in?

    Thanks,
    Allison

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