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No fine for utility manager who admitted to illegally draining his pool

July 15, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

City officials say they will not levy a $25,000 fine on Ron Davis, the general manager of Burbank Water and Power, for draining his pool without a permit.

But that doesn’t mean that Davis is home scott-free. He and the city still could be subject to a fine. Whether one is issued could depend upon what state water quality officials find in their own investigation of the matter.

Sam Unger, executive officer for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for the Los Angeles region, said the state has the authority to fine the city if it is determined a violation occurred.

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“We will conduct our own investigation,” Unger said. “We are looking for evidence of a discharge of waste.”

Unger said they would start their investigation by speaking with the inspector who issued the report.

There are various types of violations, including negligent and knowing violations, and with fines ranging for those violations range from $2,500 per day of the violation to $50,000 per day. Penalties also include up to three years in jail, according to environmental federal regulations.

Davis conceded that he neglected to obtain a permit before draining a portion of his pool for repairs, but said the water had not been chlorinated for a week — well past the recommended three-day wait period for discharge.

“No, the city is not subject to a fine, no bad water was discharged,” Davis said. “Still, I should’ve gotten the damn permit. There’s no excuse for that.”

The cost for a permit is $28.

The discharge was cited in a report submitted to the Public Works Department by an inspector on June 16, which found that Davis violated city and Los Angeles County regulations by draining his pool without a permit.

“We were provided photos of a swimming pool with various levels of water in it,” said Jeffrey Carter of United Water, which contracts with the city to oversee waste water, among other duties. “It’s just a picture of a pool. We have no way of establishing, without a reasonable doubt, where that water went.”

Cities generally require permits for pool drainage to ensure that chlorine and other chemicals do not make it into the storm drain system, from which it eventually will end up in the ocean and harm marine life, said Kerjon Lee, public affairs manager for the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.

Lee said the flood control district does not have the authority to enforce a fine.

Public works officials declined to immediately turn over data on pool draining permits. But a public works employee with knowledge of the process, who did not want to be named because of not being authorized to talk to the media, said five to 10 permits are issued monthly.

“The city, like all cities, passes on fines…that’s pretty normal,” Carter said. “The city did not get fined, there is nothing to pass along to the resident.”

 
 

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