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Paradise Cove pollution fine slashed, outraging environmentalists [Updated]

November 18, 2009 |  2:38 pm

A Malibu mobile home park that earlier this year was fined $1.65 million for repeatedly allowing raw and partially treated sewage to spill into the ocean and local creeks will have to pay a mere fraction of the penalty, a reduction that has infuriated environmentalists who viewed the fine as a long-overdue punishment.

Calling the reduction of Paradise Cove’s fine to $54,500 a "travesty of justice," Heal the Bay President Mark Gold blamed the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board staff and attorneys for making what he called "egregious" procedural errors.

Because of technical mistakes, Kissel Co., owner of Paradise Cove, saved more than $1 million in penalties and millions more because it did not operate a "First World wastewater treatment system for a decade," Gold wrote on his Spouting Off blog.

"It definitely pays to pollute," Gold said.

Water board officials and lawyers for Kissel Co. could not immediately be reached for comment.

[Updated at 3:05 p.m.: Residents of the 72-acre mobile home park on Pacific Coast Highway have complained of seeing raw sewage leaking from manholes, flowing into storm drains and "running down the street to the playground area," according to water board documents.

When the water board handed down the penalty last year, board spokesman Stephen Cain said the size of the fine "speaks to the importance of what's going on there."

Though not the largest penalty handed down by the water board, the fine for allowing about 2,000 gallons of raw or partially treated sewage to flow into the ocean and local creeks in was considered significant.

The 257 mobile home sites in the park, which evolved from a rustic recreational vehicle campground in the 1950s and '60s into a chic seaside enclave, are nestled among trees and shrubs. All sit within 1,500 feet of the ocean.]

--Martha Groves

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