Nonprofit fined for water spilled by vandal

Posted at 6:36 AM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 09:36:17-04

It was a small act of vandalism, but it's costing a local nonprofit in a big way.

Every August, the Hillcrest Business Association puts on CityFest. Roughly 150,000 pack University Avenue to celebrate the pride of Hillcrest.

One of the highlights is a dunk tank. Money raised from dunking people goes to Mama's Kitchen. Councilman Todd Gloria is among the city leaders who have been dunked for charity. 

This year, as the event was wrapping up, someone vandalized the tank, leaving a huge hole in the side and water gushing into the storm drains.

"Some vandal, or lunatic kicked a hole in the bottom of the dunk tank and all the water went in the street," said Benjamin Nicholls, Executive Director of the Hillcrest Business Association.

Shortly after, Nichols told 10News he was shocked to get a $1,000 storm water violation fine from San Diego's Storm Water Department.

"My first thought was wait a minute, I didn't put the water in the street, this crazy guy did, so why am I paying?" said Nicholls.

His second thought was why is the fine so high.

"A thousand dollars, seems above and beyond, like we were being punished for something we had no control over," said Nicholls.

The dunk tank usually raises roughly $1,000 for Mama's Kitchen. Nicholls said the business association will make sure the charity gets its money, but the impact of the fine may cost the community in other ways.

"It'll mean maybe we're not emptying the trash cans as much as we normally do, we might not put up as many flower baskets," said Nicholls. "We do a lot of the things in the neighborhood that people think the city does."

Nicholls said this isn't the way for the city to try to send a message about water conservation.

"I get the importance of water in California. It's very important, but this is not making an example of anyone. This is taking advantage of a random occurrence, a random crime against a nonprofit, a tiny nonprofit. "

Nicholls said normally once the event is over, the organizers suck up the water from the dunk tank and put it back into the sewer system where it gets treated. That didn't happen this year because of the vandalism.

It's illegal to dump anything into the city's storm drains, but Nicholls says water from the tank isn't going to jeopardize the environment.

"I don't know that it creates this massive threat to the storm water system. I don't think we're going to kill any dolphins because of this spill."

No one from the city was available Monday night to comment on this story. Stay tuned to 10News for further developments.