Contact 13 Investigates
City gives Las Vegas Zoo cease and desist order
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- The Las Vegas zoo is in hot water with the city over how it handles animal wastewater.
Contact 13 first exposed how the zoo is using Rancho Drive as a toilet. Now, the city has issued a cease and desist order.
And as Chief Investigator Darcy Spears reports, many of you say that should be just the beginning.
The otter, alligators, turtles and flamingos are among the zoo animals who use their pools and ponds as toilets. And that's fine.
But the zoo is flushing their wastewater into the street -- which is not fine at all. In fact, it's against the law.
The day after Contact 13 was out filming at the zoo, city inspectors wrote a notice of violation to Zoo Director Pat Dingle.
They found "illicit discharges of water from exhibits at the zoo to the storm drain via Rancho Drive." It's a practice they said "must cease immediately" or the city will step in and may impose fines.
Former zoo employees who contacted Action News say the zoo typically dumps its water in the south corner of the property where we found mud, and then it runs over the sidewalk and down Rancho into the storm drain in front of the Catholic Charities Thrift Store.
Catholic Charities employees we spoke to say they see water all the time, but never knew what it was.
Now that our viewers know what's going on, many of you are sounding off on our Facebook page.
There were a few comments supporting the zoo, but dozens more calling for it to be shut down.
Yvette wrote: "This town deserves a real zoo and those animals deserve so much better!"
Dee calls it "an embarrassment to the city."
And Anita writes: "Sad that the City of Las Vegas hasn't done anything to help improve the conditions of the zoo."
Dumping the wastewater into a storm drain instead of the sanitary sewer is prohibited by Las Vegas city code for obvious reasons.
Dr. Thomas Piechota of UNLV's Research and Graduate Studies program explains.
"When it goes into our storm drains, it' doesn't have a chance to go through the treatment plants. It goes directly into the Las Vegas Wash and then goes directly into Lake Mead. And Lake Mead is our drinking water source. So it's gonna potentially contaminate our drinking water source in that case."
In response to that, Kristan wrote: "I am not saying the zoo is right. But have you seen Lake Mead's water? I wouldn't drink it either way and there are fish in the lake. Where do they poop? In the lake water. Anyway, shame on the zoo for endangering people's health."
Stacy adds: "I'd rather have animal waste than all the oil, pharmaceuticals, etc. in the water that gets ignored."
When Darcy Spears was at the zoo recently reporting on the OSHA violations they're facing, Zoo Director Pat Dingle had an employee come out and hand her a letter saying "the zoo will have no comment to channel 13 on this or any matter."
As for the City violation, the zoo has been told fix it fast, but check with the City first to make sure the solution complies with the law.