Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley has announced the resolution of an environmental-protection action against Solvang Hotel Group L.P., the entity that operates the Holiday Inn Express in Solvang.

The action was filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria. The complaint alleges the hotel illegally disposed of hazardous waste, specifically corrosive swimming pool chemicals, by placing them in an ordinary trash dumpster.

The environmental violations were discovered when fumes were emitted from the dumpster in which the chemicals were placed.

Hotel management called the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, which in turn contacted the Santa Barbara County Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA).

CUPA is a unit of Santa Barbara County Environmental Health Services that regulates hazardous-waste compliance.

CUPA inspectors discovered two containers of muriatic acid, a chemical used to regulate pH in swimming pools, had been placed in the dumpster.

Inspectors believe the fumes probably were the result of muriatic acid leaking and reacting with other substances in the dumpster.

In response to the fumes, the Fire Department established a perimeter, donned personal protective equipment, and packaged the hazardous waste in appropriate containers.

CUPA referred the matter to the District Attorney’s Office for further investigation and possible prosecution.

Due to the cooperation of Solvang Hotel Group and its agreement to take corrective action, the action was settled shortly after being filed.

In the Final Judgment by Stipulation, which was entered without admission of liability, Judge Jed Beebe ordered Solvang Hotel Group to implement a training program concerning the proper emptying and disposal of hazardous-material containers.

The training program shall remain in place for five years. In addition, Judge Beebe ordered Solvang Hotel Group to pay a total of $31,000, divided as follows:

» $3,000 to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department as restitution for emergency-response costs.

» $5,000 to the Santa Barbara County CUPA as restitution for emergency-response and investigative costs.

» $9,000 in civil penalties to the state of California General Fund, Toxic Substances Control Account.

» $4,500 in civil penalties to the Santa Barbara County CUPA.

» $9,500 in civil penalties to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

“This settlement holds the hotel owners responsible for putting our environment, our communities, and our first responders at risk,” Dudley said.

“Even though the illegal conduct was not intentional or negligent, the risks presented were real and the law imposes strict liability for these environmental violations,” she said.

— Debbie Fox for Santa Barbara County District Attorney.