Matthew Lickona 11:13 a.m., May 24
SeaWorld Cited for Exceeding Mission Bay Effluent Limits
Time is running out for the public to comment on a $6000 settlement agreement reached between the California Regional Water Control Board and SeaWorld LLC regarding agency findings that the company's San Diego aquatic park exceeded legal amounts of ammonia ending up in Mission Bay.
"This offer applies to two violations of the permitted effluent limits for ammonia on May 24, 2011 that are subject to mandatory minimum penalties," according to the board's January 26 settlement offer, which was accepted by SeaWorld San Diego park president John T. Reilly on February 7.
The agency alleged that this isn't the first time there have been effuent problems at the park.
"Since April 13, 2005, there have been numerous violations of effluent limitations at the facility, inciuding three exceedances of Ammonia, six exceedances of Enterococcus, and one exceedance of Total coliform.
"Furthermore, there have been multiple months in which required sampling was not reported.
"The constituents not sampled have included pH, Total coliform, Fecal Coliform, Enterococcus, and Total Residual Chlorine."
"SeaWorld LLC is strongly urged to take all necessary actions to prevent future violations of its [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] effluent limitations and reporting requirements."
A spokesman for the control board said this morning that the settlement process, referred to as the "Expedited Payment Program," is a relatively new way for the agency to expedite handling of its backlog of violation notices.
"If mandatory minimum penalties are not sufficient to compel compliance and corrective actions," the agency document says, "we may not offer the Expedited Payment Program and will instead recommend that our Board impose discretionary penalties above the statutory minimum."
As a result of the deal, "The San Diego Water Board will forego issuance of a formal administrative complaint, will not refer the violations to the Attorney General, and will waive its right to seek additional discretionary civil liabilities for the violations identified in Exhibit A."
According to the agency, no public comment regarding the proposed settlement had been received as of this afternoon.
Deadline for comments is this Thursday, March 22, a spokesman added.
When SeaWorld was asked about the agreement this morning, the San Diego park's communications director David Koontz responded with an email, saying, "Immediately upon being notified of the results of this sampling, we began an investigation in an attempt to identify the cause of the exceedence.
"We also hired an independent 3rd party lab to confirm the results, which they did.
"We reviewed all of our operating parameters and confirmed our treatment systems were working properly.
"We sampled various locations upstream of the treatment facility to see if we could determine if there were any discharge streams that could have contributed to the exceedence, however, we were unable to identify any potential sources.
"That being said, we have still taken additional steps to increase the number of clean-outs to all our storm water conveyances systems.
"The fact that our investigation did not indicate a specific cause of the exceedence, and the exceedence is inconsistent with our routine testing results, we feel that this was an isolated instance and does not indicate a systemic problem with our treatment system or procedures."
Added Koontz: "Exceedences in conjunction with our water discharge permit are very infrequent and have never had a detrimental impact to the overall health of Mission Bay."
"We take our environmental responsibility very seriously and are proud to be excellent stewards of Mission Bay."