Judge Finds GM Guilty in Waste Water Dumping Case : Environment: The auto maker is ordered to pay $9,594 for the incident but will probably file an appeal.


General Motors Corp. on Wednesday was found guilty of an illegal waste water discharge from its former Van Nuys auto assembly plant and ordered to pay $9,594 in fines and costs.

The sentencing in Los Angeles Municipal Court stemmed from an incident last year in which GM maintenance workers flushed about 17,000 gallons of chemically contaminated waste water into Tujunga Wash in Van Nuys instead of properly disposing it.

However, GM and city prosecutors are expected to appeal the decision by Municipal Judge S. Patricia Spear, who found the company guilty of a single misdemeanor count while dismissing two other charges.

“I’m pleased that we had a finding of guilty,” said Deputy City Atty. Don Kass. “I’m hopeful that we’re going to prevail on appeal to resurrect the charges that were dismissed,” Kass said.


GM attorney Gary A. Feess could not be reached for comment.

The charges, filed last June, involved the discharge of a blend of water and the corrosion-inhibiting chemical Dearborn 547, which is a mixture of sodium hydroxide, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. Workers preparing to dismantle cooling towers at the auto plant on Jan. 27, 1993, drained the fluid, which flowed along the ground and into the wash, which empties into the Los Angeles River in Studio City.

Authorities were alerted when a nearby resident reported seeing a reddish-colored liquid in the wash.

“Instead of disposing of the waste in a legal and environmentally safe manner, two maintenance workers merely opened valves and allowed the mixture of water and chemicals to flow onto the ground,” said City Atty. James K. Hahn.

The company was found guilty of a single violation of the state Department of Fish and Game code, while a charge of violating the state water code and a second fish and game count were dismissed.

GM was ordered to pay the maximum fine of $2,000, a $3,400 penalty assessment, and $4,194 for investigative costs of the state Department of Fish and Game and Los Angeles County Fire Department. GM also was placed on two years probation.

The auto maker manufactured Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds at the plant at 8000 Van Nuys Blvd., but ceased production there in 1992.