The “technical memos” of the Regional Water Quality Control Board reveal confirmation of what they are doing. The study was not a factual scientific analysis based on an unbiased approach. The board defined their objective and molded the tech memos to support it. The driving force is the claim that septic systems are blamed for poor beach ratings. There is a very good chance this assumption is wrong and the problem will remain after millions are spent.
A common bacteria found in humans, birds and plants was used as an indicator of water quality. Enterococcus bacteria are the easiest and most inexpensive to sample and measure. Their presence does not distinguish where they came from: plants, birds or humans. Repeatedly the memos redefine enterococcus bacteria as fecal bacteria. Attaching the name “fecal” makes everybody alarmed. The tests used do not prove their cultures are fecal in nature from humans.
Where evidence is lacking, the report fills in the blanks to meet their goal. Serra Retreat has been monitoring wells for measuring water quality. The memos state the Retreat is in violation 24 times because the well monitoring was not done. With this admission that facts were not provided, the board concluded Serra Retreat is contaminating water. There is no neutral scientific data to support this conclusion.
Illicit discharge of septic systems is cited. Having a septic tank pumped is included in the list of illicit discharge. The proper maintenance of a septic tank includes pumping. It is maintained that in the 1960s, well water was used in Malibu. The board seeks water quality that would allow use of ground water for drinking. The Malibu of 50 years ago has no resemblance to today. The old wells would not be capable of providing enough water for today’s needs. Many of the monitoring wells cited by the board are too close to septic systems to even allow a water well to be permitted.
Two things are clear. The board is on an enforcement mission with deaf ears to contrary information. Without neutral scientific data, there is a good chance that the lagoon will continue to be a source of beach bacteria after a sewage plant is built.