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U.S. EPA fines Bay Area pharmaceutical company over $100,000 for industrial wastewater violations

Release Date: 09/11/2008
Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415/947-4248,

Company to also spend additional $50,000 to help restore Novato Creek

(San Francisco, Calif. – 09/11/08) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined BioMarin Pharmaceutical $119,717 after its Novato, Calif., facility violated the Clean Water Act on numerous occasions by discharging low pH industrial wastewater to the Novato Sanitation District domestic sewer system and the Ignacio Wastewater Treatment Plant, which discharge to the intertidal flats of San Pablo Bay.

As part of the enforcement action, the company will also spend an additional $50,270 to restore Novato Creek and one of its tributaries, Vineyard Creek.

In May 2007, the EPA inspected the BioMarin facility, reviewed the company’s 2004-2007 monitoring data, and found that the company had discharged low pH industrial wastewater from the facility, violating both federal and local standards, on 62 days. BioMarin is required by its wastewater discharge permit, issued by Novato Sanitation District, to monitor industrial wastewater effluent from its facility and submit results to the district. Low pH wastewater can cause sewer corrosion and collapses of sewer lines, which often result in sewer overflows and discharges of raw sewage.

“To protect our Bay and the structural integrity of sewer systems, companies are required to properly treat industrial wastewater before discharging it to the city's sewers,” said Alexis Strauss, the Water Division director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. “This settlement will bring much needed restoration to the Novato creek and wetland ecosystems to improve water quality, restore native vegetation, and improve habitat for endangered and threatened species.”

As part of the restoration, BioMarin will remove invasive vegetation and revegetate at least 1,000 feet with native plants along creek banks and wetlands. The company will maintain and monitor the site for three years to ensure an 80 percent survival rate of the plantings.

Novato Creek suffers from poor water quality that is a result of untreated and treated industrial waste discharges into the watershed, among other things. Non-native species currently degrade the ecosystem, crowd out native species, and provide substandard food and shelter for native plants and animals. The restoration project will complement a larger long-term Marin County Public Works Department restoration of the Novato Creek watershed.

The Clean Water Act prohibits companies from introducing pollutants into a public system that will cause corrosive structural damage to the system, and in no case may facilities discharge wastewater with a pH lower than 5.0, unless the treatment system is designed to accommodate the discharges.

BioMarin owns and operates a facility that specializes in producing enzymes to treat diseases and various medical conditions, such as chronic genetic disorders.

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