Auto Dealership Cited for Flushing Industrial Waste Water Into Street

Times Staff Writer

Responding to complaints from residents about oily and soapy water streaming down 2nd Street in front of their homes, the state Regional Water Quality Control Board has cited a Vasek Polak automobile dealership for illegally discharging industrial wastes.

John Lewis, water resource control engineer for the board, said Vasek Polak has been illegally washing down the pavement in the service area at its BMW dealership at 2901 Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach, flushing about one hundred gallons of waste water into the street with each cleaning.

Lewis said the state board inspected the BMW dealership after receiving complaints last week about the Vasek Polak Audi-Porsche dealership at 199 Pacific Coast Highway. The state engineer, who apparently went to the BMW facility by mistake, discovered the violation there. Vasek Polak operates four facilities in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach.

The state engineer verbally cited the service manager at the BMW facility last week for violating the state water code and, in a letter expected to be sent to Vasek Polak next week, the board is requesting that the dealer review cleaning procedures at all four facilities, Lewis said. If similar practices are common at the other facilities and are not corrected, Lewis said, the state board will cite those facilities, too.

Practice Stopped

Vasek Polak, who owns the dealerships, said Wednesday that he was unaware that flushing the water into the street was against state law. "We will stop doing it," Polak said. "We will make the correction."

Lewis described the flushing violation as "an isolated incident" that is more an annoyance than a danger. He said, however, that the water board enforces all discharge violations because together they constitute a pollution hazard.

Lewis said the citation carries no penalty if the dealership stops washing the water into the street. Vasek Polak will have two weeks after receiving the letter to present to the board a plan for collecting the waste water, Lewis said.

Hans Adams, service manager for the BMW facility, said the waste water is mostly soap, and said he did not know washing the water into the street was a violation. He said workers wash down the service area about once a month. Colin Dibnah, service manager for the Audi-Porsche facility, where neighbors complained about the discharge, said the water contains no hazardous materials.

Detergents, Oil, Grease

The waste water, which Lewis said contains detergents, oil, grease and other pollutants, must be discharged directly into a city sewer or collected and transported to a treatment facility. Lewis said it is illegal to discharge industrial waste into the street, where it runs into storm drains and eventually works its way, untreated, into the ocean.

Hermosa Beach Director of Public Works Anthony Antich said the state Regional Water Quality Control Board was asked to investigate the dealership after the city received a petition signed by about 25 residents on 2nd Street near the Audi-Porsche dealership. The petition, circulated by Nan Yamane, a 30-year-old student at UCLA, asked the city to analyze the waste water.

Yamane said this week that she is concerned about the waste water contaminating the ocean, corroding the street, and possibly endangering children--including her 2-year-old son--who play in the area.

"It flows right in front of my house," she said. "It is a simple problem, and I would like to see them fix it."

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