Workshop to focus on Malibu wastewater issues


The workshop will include an address by California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Terry Tanninem and a presentation by a panel that includes municipal agency officials and representatives from environmental organizations.

By P.G. O’Malley/Special to The Malibu Times

Wastewater has always been a hot topic in Malibu, and on Saturday the subject will get its due at a workshop scheduled for 9 a.m. at Pepperdine University. Called “Coastal Pollution and Water Quality in Malibu-Avoiding the Fs and Getting the As,” the conference is jointly sponsored by the city of Malibu, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission.

The three-hour session will include opening remarks by California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Terry Tanninem and a presentation by an eight-member panel. Included on the panel are Planning Commissioner John Sibert, Heal the Bay Executive Director Mark Gold and Malibu commercial property owner Steve Soboroff. After the panel discussion, attendees will have a chance to ask questions and brainstorm ideas for water quality.

RWQB Chair Fran Diamond, who will also be on the panel, said this would be a historic event.

“The worst polluted beaches in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are in Malibu,” Diamond said. “This situation seemed to be crying out for action.”

Diamond said Malibu traditionally gets bad grades in annual water quality tests. He said this is the first time the key interested payers have come together to look at what has been done and what needs to be done about wastewater in Malibu

City Manager Katie Lichtig, who will also be on the panel, said the idea for this program originated last summer. “The city originally proposed a series of workshops to educate the community on past wastewater issues, what’s going on today and what the future will look like,” Lichtig said.

Diamond said some of the topics the workshop would focus on include the causes of the degradation of the waters off Malibu, what’s been done about septic systems polluting the creek and lagoon, illegal storm drain discharge into the ocean, what businesses and the community can do to keep the beaches clean and alternative options, such as a centralized wastewater treatment plant.

Entities involved in the watershed, including the RWQB, have consistently stressed a watershed approach to solving water quality problems, meaning the involvement of everybody affected by the Malibu watershed. But some of what have typically been called key watershed players are not represented on the workshop panel. They include the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which discharges effluent from its wastewater treatment plant into Malibu Creek and the upper watershed cities of Calabasas and Agoura Hills, which contribute urban runoff to the creek.

Calabasas City Manager Tony Coroalles said the city had no plans to attend the event. “It’s not something we would have attended without a personal invitation, not just because we got a flyer,” he said.

A spokesperson from the Las Virgenes district said it would send a number of representatives to the meeting. Lichtig said Calabasas and Agoura Hills were not invited because the upper watershed cities were represented with a person from the county, Deputy Director of Public Works Don Wolfe. She also defended the workshop planners’ decision not to include the Las Virgenes district on the panel.

“Now that the district is restricted in when it can discharge, the concept that it is a major contributor is limited,” Lichtig said.

Diamond, Lichtig and Santa Monica Bay Commission Director Mary Ann Yamaguchi said they hope this will be the first of a number of public sessions on wastewater and the Malibu Creek watershed.

To reserve a space call 213.576.6613 or e-mail