Tapia sewage spills into Malibu Creek

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Flow is stopped before reaching the ocean.

By Arnold G. York/Publisher

A potentially disastrous sewage spill on Sunday, caused by a break in a sewage line coming from the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility in Malibu Canyon, may have been caught in time as it seeped toward Malibu beaches.

The leaks were first discovered along Las Virgenes Road near Mulholland Highway at about 9 a.m. Crews from the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District rushed to shut down the line and limit the spread of sewage into the creek. Even with their quick response, they estimated that about 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of sewage flowed into Las Virgenes (Malibu Creek).

The crews attempted to block its progress down the creek by first using bulldozers to push a sand dam into a storm drain through which the sewage had been flowing. Then they went about a mile downstream and built another dam out of sandbags to try and block the passage of the sewage. When the sewage later reached the sandbag dam they attempted to remove it with hugh vacuum trucks that had been brought up to the sandbag site. The crews were able to divert some of the effluvium into a nearby sewer using a portable pump.

It isn’t yet clear what caused the pipeline, which is only 10 years old (considered fairly new in terms of the pipe longevity) to break, although seismic movement or corrosion is suspected. An investigation is being conducted, and in the interim, a backup line has been put into service.

Fortunately, the break occurred at a time of the year when creek flows are low, meaning many parts of the creek are dry, particularly the lower portion, which kept the flow from reaching the ocean and beaches. If the break had occurred when the creek was high, the result may have been totally different.

The Tapia Wastewater Reclamation Facility provides wastewater treatment for 85,000 residents of the Malibu Creek Watershed, which includes the cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village, Hidden Hills, Oak Park, portions of Thousand Oaks and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.