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Balboa Bay Club fined for spill

March 01, 2001

Paul Clinton

NEWPORT BEACH -- The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board

has slapped the Balboa Bay Club with a $5,000 fine stemming from a sewage

spill in September.

The board issued the fine Feb. 23 in a letter to the club's president,

David Wooten. The club must either pay the fine by April 4 or request a

public hearing to dispute it. It is the club's first violation.

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Wooten could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Other club members

also did not return calls.

The Orange County Health Care Agency closed a strip of beach in front

of the club on Sept. 20 after more than 500 gallons of raw sewage spilled

into Newport Harbor.

"It's a significant issue whenever there's a loss of a beneficial use

of a water body," said Mark Adelson, the board's enforcement section

chief. "The bar has been raised on civil liability."

The board has begun the process of redrafting its enforcement policies

and imposing fines of up to $10,000, Adelson said. A provision of the

California Water Code permits fines against those who discharge hazardous

waste into a body of water.

The public hearing, if requested by the club, would be held on April

19.

The club's spill was caused when sewage trapped in a grease-clogged

line seeped out of a manhole cover and ran into the ocean.

The spill wasn't large, but sewage contains high bacteria counts and

is considered a health risk.

The grease in the line was probably a result of cooking byproducts

from the club's restaurant. Adelson said the club "didn't adequately

evaluate cooking grease practices" and failed to clean the lines.

Bob Caustin, who founded Defend the Bay, lauded the fine.

"I think it's about time they got hard on polluters," Caustin said of

the board. "This is a common problem throughout the [restaurant]

industry. The Balboa Bay Club is not unique in their lack of attention to

detail."

During the planned redraft of pollution laws, the regional board is

expected to institute a zero-tolerance policy for sewage spills.

With that writing on the wall, Newport Beach city staff are working

feverishly to find ways to eliminate the spills, said Deputy City Manager

Dave Kiff.

The city has begun actively promoting a device known as a grease

interceptor -- a container attached to sewer lines that filters out

grease.

The owners of Lido Diner have installed one of the devices, which cost

about $10,000.

Kiff said the city will also ramp up cleaning of the lines, as well as

institute an information campaign for local restaurants.

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