Onsite inspections, septic upgrades may be required


A 400-page report identifies bacteria and nitrogens from septic systems as polluting local waterways. City says inspections will take place, and perhaps required upgrades of systems in certain areas of the Civic Center, as well as other areas.

By Jessica Steindorff/Special to The Malibu Times

More funding and a strategy for adopting a wastewater management system will be sought in order to take action on findings of a 400-page report that studied the effects on local waters from onsite wastewater treatment systems in areas of the Civic Center.

The yearlong $667,000 study, paid for with funding by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, finds that nitrogen and bacteria from septic systems travel within a six-month time period impacting Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon and ocean waters. The City Council approved the final report, prepared by Stone Environmental, based in Vermont, mid-September.

Heal the Bay has been monitoring the progress of the study closely.

“We felt that the work that was done by the consultants was very comprehensive. We have been reviewing their monitoring designs and helping them out, trying to get more money,” said Mark Gold, Heal the Bay’s executive director. “We’ve kept very close contact with them and the results of the project are very revealing. These results will be used quiet extensively.”

Environmental groups believe that bacteria from wastewater treatment systems have impacted Surfrider Beach and contend that the pollution in the lagoon was a factor in the flunking grades the beach received this month from Heal the Bay. The group takes samples at area beaches and grades them on a scale of A to F based on risk of beach-goers’ illness.

“There is a very real health risk,” Gold said, regarding the impacts on those who surf and swim in the ocean.

The project coordinators hope to receive more funding to continue their quest in finding a solution. The next action of business is deciding on a strategy for adopting a wastewater management system to prevent any impacts the wastewater may have on the lagoon, as well as being able to identify further sources. In order to do so, a proposal for obtaining additional fees from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission is already under consideration and is expected to be expedited, said Craig George, the city’s manager of environmental and building safety.

Inspections of onsite wastewater systems in areas targeted by the study will take place, said city officials. In a memo directed to city council members, City Manager Katie Lichtig wrote, “the division is working with Stone Environment to finalize [a management system] to create an online data and retrieval system for the operating permits” for onsite wastewater treatment systems. Recommendations from the study include requiring homeowners to upgrade systems in certain areas of the Civic Center, as well as parts of Serra Retreat and Malibu Colony.