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U.S. EPA, LOS ANGELES SETTLE JEWELRY DESIGN CENTER POLLUTION CASE

Release Date: 9/12/1995
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1578 Chris Westhoff, City of Los Angeles, (213) 485-6262 Kurt Zimmerman, Assistant U. S. Attorney, (213) 894-0474

Released jointly by the City of Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
   
   (San Francisco)--The U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the City of Los Angeles today announced that they have reached a settlement with Jewelry Design Center, of Los Angeles, Calif., in which the company will pay a $176,000 penalty for illegally discharging heavy metals and cyanide to the City's sewer system, in violation of the pretreatment requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The penalty will be shared equally by the federal government and the City of Los Angeles.  

     "This case is a good example of how local and federal governments can work together to enforce our environmental laws and protect the environment," said Alexis Strauss, U.S. EPA's regional water management division director.
     
     "The City of Los Angeles has made a serious commitment to protect the water quality of Santa Monica Bay," said J.P. Ellman, President of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works.  "To that end, all the city's industrial waste permittees must comply with their discharge and monitoring requirements or face the consequences of enforcement actions such as this.  When one person or company chooses to violate these requirements the increased costs to the city's conveyance and treatment operations and the damage to the environment are consequently borne by all the citizens of Los Angeles."

     United States Attorney Nora M. Manella said, "This enforcement and the resulting penalties should remind every company of the need to protect and preserve our environment.  Reducing pollution at its source is essential in preventing  toxins from contaminating our waterways."

     The complaints that initiated this action, filed in the United States District Court in Los Angeles, say the company discharged inadequately treated wastewater to the Los Angeles sewer system between March 1989 and June 1993. The wastewater contained cyanide and heavy metals such as copper, lead, nickel, silver, and zinc.  These substances can pass through wastewater treatment facilities designed to handle regular sewage, thus polluting waterways, and harming not only fish and wildlife, but people who eat contaminated fish.

      Sewage treatment plants are not equipped to effectively treat industrial wastes.  The CWA sets pretreatment standards, which are limits on the amount of metals and chemicals that can be discharged by industries to a sewer system.  Companies must treat this chemical wastewater to remove harmful pollutants and meet the standards before discharging these wastes to a treatment facility.

     The Jewelry Design Center at first failed to heed administrative orders from the City of Los Angeles and U.S. EPA to stop the illegal discharges.  However, after U.S. EPA and the City filed suit seeking heavy financial penalties, the facility installed over $150,000 worth of treatment equipment, and is now in compliance with the law.

     The City of Los Angeles played a critical role in the development of this case.  The City initially discovered Jewelry Design Center's violations, issued administrative compliance  orders, participated in U.S. EPA's inspection of the facility, and worked closely with U.S. EPA in the subsequent lawsuit.  A consent decree setting out the terms of the settlement has been submitted to the United States District Court in Los Angeles for approval.  


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