Planning Commission approves stormwater treatment facility

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The facility will help reduce bacteria in the Malibu Creek watershed.

By Mark Bassett/Special to The Malibu Times

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the construction of a 560-square-foot stormwater treatment facility at the northwest corner of Civic Center Way and Cross Creek Road at its meeting Monday. Public Works Director Yugal Lall said this is the first step toward cleaning the city’s polluted watershed, which is soon to be a requirement since the California Regional Water Quality Control Board approved strict regulations on the amount of bacteria that is allowed to be in the Malibu Creek watershed at any given time. Called Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, Malibu will eventually have to comply with these regulations. Lall said the facility would help toward reaching that goal. The facility works by collecting water from the Civic Center, Cross Creek and the Malibu Road storm drains. The water is then treated in the facility and released into the creek.

City staff members said the treated water would meet what is called Environmental Protection Agency Contact Recreation-1 standards for bacterial contamination. Also, trash and other floatable solids would be reduced.

Lall said eventually the facility could be enhanced so that water could actually be taken out of the creek and placed into the facility. It would then be treated, and put back into the creek.

Because the city does not own any property in the area, the facility is being built within the public right-of-way. This received some opposition, including from Malibu Township Council. But city staff said there was no other place feasible to place the structure. The commission also received an opposition letter from Grant Adamson of the Mariposa Land Company, which owns a nearby property. It demanded the facility be placed underground. City staff said it would be a bad idea to place it underground, because flooding could destroy the facility.

Funding for the project is coming entirely from grants. The Clean Beaches Initiative grant will bring $2,000,000 toward the project. The city is receiving an additional $500,000 from the California Integrated Waste Management Board. City staff said that is enough money to complete the project.

Construction could begin as soon as July, and take about four to five months. But for that to occur, the city’s dispute with the California Coastal Commission would have to be concluded, since the project requires a coastal development permit.

Last week a meeting took place in Malibu to further discuss Malibu’s need to comply with new water quality regulations and its affect on residents and businesses.

Melanie Irwin, the city’s environmental programs analyst, said the city would begin monitoring its beaches within the next two months. She added that by March 2005, the city must submit an implementation plan, identifying projects and policies to meet the bacteria threshold. Since septic effluent has a direct impact on the level of bacteria, businesses and homeowners will also be subject to the requirement to meet tougher standards. While many homeowners have an exemption waiver for their septic system, those waivers expire in June. The city and the RWQCB will host a meeting at Pepperdine on May 8 to hear public concerns.

Some of these businesses have anticipated public mandates and taken the first steps. David Reznick of the Malibu Bay Co. said he has been monitoring his five wells weekly at a cost of nearly $42,000 a year for two and a half years.

The cost of complying with the water quality regulations is a central issue to the pursuit of clean water. While state propositions 12, 13 and 40 are providing funds to implement water quality improvement to some watershed cites, and Malibu has grants for new programs and facilities for water quality improvement, costs to homeowners and business owners will likely be significant.

“Community participation in water quality issues is a priority of the city,” Irwin said. “The city is working, along with other agencies, in conjunction with the Malibu Creek Advisory Council, to produce an informational video on the issues that our community is facing with the adoption of the TMDLs.”