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SeaWorld Sued Over Flushing Drugs Down Toilets... Into The Ocean

A show at SeaWorld (Photo by Britt Reints via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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A former security guard has sued SeaWorld, claiming he was fired in part for questioning the company's practices of flushing drugs confiscated from guests down the toilet.

Ezekiel Gutierrez, who worked as a security guard for 13 years for the amusement park, filed a 22-page wrongful termination lawsuit against the company on Dec. 9, according to U-T San Diego.

The lawsuit claims that from 1992 until 2012 (and at least once a month), "The narcotics, contraband, and other unknown substances were routinely flushed down the toilet in compliance with Defendant's instruction and policy."

SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz issued a statement that said, "We do not comment on pending litigation."

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Flushing drugs down the toilet are frowned upon by environmental groups, who say traces of it get into the ocean. "When flushed down the toilet, illicit and pharmaceutical drugs enter into San Diego’s sewage treatment system, which is unable to remove them from the wastewater before it’s released into the ocean,” Travis Pritchard, a program director at San Diego Coastkeeper told U-T San Diego. “These drugs can impact marine life health. Proper disposal is the key to keeping drugs of all types out of the environment."

Since the Pacific Ocean contains 189 quintillion gallons of water, it's unlikely that the alleged amounts of drugs SeaWorld is flushing down its toilets would be detrimental to the environment. However, Serge Dedina, the executive director for Wildcoast, points out to KFMB News that for a company like SeaWorld (that touts itself as a ocean-conscientious company and even has "sea" in its name) to do something like this is not following best practices.

In addition, city officials told U-T San Diego that SeaWorld is under a wastewater agreement with the city that prohibits them from dumping pharmaceuticals into the sewer system.

Gutierrez claims he fell off of a ladder in an attempt to fix a broken security camera and had was fired after he had to miss work from his injuries, in addition to questioning the unwritten drug-flushing policies.

SeaWorld has also recently come under fire for the treatment of its whales. The Blackfish documentary makes the case that orcas are far too intelligent to be held in captivity.