City announces alternative to proposed septics ban

The City of Malibu today offered an alternative plan to the ban of septic systems in the broader Civic Center area proposed by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The regional board will vote on whether to implement the ban on Thursday during a hearing in Los Angeles. The board’s staff recommends a plan to phase out the utilization of septic systems in most of the eastern portion of Malibu, due to its assessment that they are the major cause of pollution of Malibu’s watershed.

The city two weeks ago announced that 400 to 500 residential property owners in the areas of Malibu Colony, Malibu Road, Serra Retreat, Sweetwater Mesa and the Malibu Knolls will have to shell out $1,000 per month to help finance an estimated $52 million centralized wastewater treatment facility if the septic ban is approved. The price tag for commercial property owners in the Civic Center will vary greatly depending on the size and use of their property, but the city anticipates it will be significantly higher than residential costs.

The proposed prohibition boundary, as identified by the regional board, would require a large wastewater treatment facility (capable of treating 600,000 gallons per day) to be constructed. The city states that technical feasibility issues have arisen with the board’s prohibition plan. One such issue is that the available percolation area may not be sufficient to disperse the large quantity of treated wastewater.

The city has proposed an alternate plan that includes a smaller wastewater treatment facility that would handle up to 240,000 gallons per day and could be constructed in phases. The first phase would involve installing a wastewater treatment system (capable of treating 190,000 gallons per day) for the central core of the Civic Center area where the commercial properties and the highest potential users of a new wastewater treatment system are located. These properties also are in close proximity to Malibu Creek.

The second phase would expand the wastewater treatment system (adding 50,000 gallons per day) to include homes in Serra Retreat, where the city states residential properties have a potential to impact water quality in Malibu Creek.

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In addition, Malibu Colony homes and two commercial zones along the east side of Malibu Creek and adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway would be required by city ordinance to install disinfection treatment to their existing septic systems. The city currently requires property owners adding new sinks, toilets, showers, etc. to add disinfection. Approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of Malibu Colony homes already have advanced treatment systems that include disinfection, the city stated in a recent press release.

Under the City’s proposed implementation schedule, Phase I of the alternate plan would be completed and operating by April 2015 and Phase II would be operating by 2018. All disinfection systems would have to be installed and operating by 2018.

If the regional board votes to implement the ban, the State Water Resources Control Board must still approve it before it can be enacted.

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