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Standard Hotel pleads guilty to dumping pool chemicals down rooftop drain

March 23, 2010 |  1:11 pm

The roof of the Standard Hotel in downtown, shown in May, 2002. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Operators of the Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to a charge of negligent discharge of pollutants and pay more than $370,000 after a hotel employee dumped pool chemicals down a rooftop drain last year, causing several people to become ill, the U.S. attorney’s office announced.

On Jan. 18, 2009, a maintenance worker poured chlorine and muriatic acid into a storm drain atop the trendy hotel, located at 550 S. Flower Street.

The mix of chemicals created a cloud of noxious gas found its way into a nearby Metro station about 6:30 a.m. the following day.

At least two people became ill from the fumes, and an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy reported experiencing a burning sensation in his eyes and lungs. The intersection of 6th and Flower streets was closed for several hours as gas continued to escape from the storm drain system.

Authorities at first were concerned about a possible terrorist attack, but then traced the gas to a drain outside the Standard and discovered two empty 50-gallon drums of chemicals near the hotel’s rooftop pool.

FBI agents said employees eventually acknowledged emptying the majority of the contents of both drums down the drain.

HotelsAB Downtown Employees LLC filed a plea agreement Tuesday in U.S. District Court in connection with the misdemeanor charge and will pay a criminal fine of $200,000 and make a $150,000 community- service payment that will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Fund for environmental initiatives.

The corporation has also agreed to pay a total of $20,283.56 in restitution to the hazardous materials division of the L.A. County Fire Department and the watershed protection division of the city of Los Angeles.

-- Corina Knoll

Photo: The rooftop of the Standard Hotel, shown in May 2002. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times