Water board to vote on Lumber mall wastewater permit

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Environmental groups says the board should hold off on issuing permit until it takes care of other issues regarding Malibu’s wastewater problems.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

The Regional Water Quality Control Board will vote Thursday at its meeting in Simi Valley whether to approve a wastewater discharge permit for the Malibu Lumber mall and the city.

Regional water board staff is recommending that the board approve the water discharge requirement/waste reclamation requirement for discharge from new commercial facilities by Malibu Lumber and the city of up to 17,000 gallons per day into Legacy Park.

The staff report states that the Malibu Lumber mall, located on Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road, will use approximately one-third of the estimate remaining groundwater capacity at the site.

If passed, the permit will require a new treatment system to “dispose of average waster volumes” and rely on trucking to remove waste when the “flow is small” and when the “flow is large and critical groundwater and stormwater conditions exist.” Groundwater monitoring will be used to ensure that the waste significantly is distanced between the water table and the treatment system. No odor controls are included in the proposed system, but it will not operate during high or low flows, the report states.

The environmental group Heal the Bay is critical of the board reviewing the discharge permits at this time because of the upcoming renegotiation of a 2004 memorandum of understanding between the City of Malibu and the water board regarding wastewater discharge permitting and the proposed investigation of a septic ban. Heal the Bay states, according to the water board staff report, that the “juxtaposition and close timing” of the issues “make it difficult for decision makers to evaluate” the discharge permits.

The staff report also states that Malibu Lumber commented that the “review of the permits should not be affected by possible future developments.”

The City of Malibu had previously insisted it be the entity to issue a wastewater discharge permit for Malibu Lumber, which had led to the water board cancelling a memorandum of understanding between the two governmental bodies that allowed the city to issue wastewater discharge permits at all.

The city and the state agency have had a memorandum of understanding in effect since 2004 that allows Malibu to issue wastewater disposal permits for all projects that generate less than 2,000 gallons of water per day. The regional water board handles larger projects. The Lumber mall, when it initially opens, will generate less than 2,000 gallons of water per day because it will not have its two future restaurants. Therefore, the city had decided to handle the wastewater permitting for the initial opening of the mall with the idea that the owners could obtain an additional permit from regional water once the restaurants were ready. Regional Water staff found this scenario unacceptable and told the city only one permit-from the regional water board-should be issued.

City Manager Jim Thorsen said the City of Malibu is no longer demanding it be the one to issue the permit for the mall, and the regional water board in late November agreed to look into renegotiating the 2004 deal with the city regarding wastewater disposal permitting.

The board also asked its staff to begin a yearlong investigation into a possible ban of septic systems in the Civic Center area, which would force the installation of a sewer system in Malibu, with the theory being that the septic systems are the main cause of the Malibu watershed pollution.

Many have contested the theory, including former City Council member Jeff Jennings who, at the previous RWQCB meeting, said Malibu may not be entirely responsible for the pollution it is being accused of creating because the city has only 1 percent of the banks of Malibu Creek, and the Malibu Creek watershed extends more one hundred miles.

However, environmental group Heal the Bay, pointing to local pollution statistics of Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Lagoon, wants the city to go into a bonding agreement to build a wastewater treatment facility. Several board members also encouraged the city to speed the process toward the construction of a wastewater treatment collection plant (which some say would be a sewer) in the Civic Center area. Currently, there is only a stormwater treatment facility that treats runoff in the area.

The city already has a few ideas of where to build one, including on the property of the future La Paz shopping and office center, but there is no official proposal.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board’s meeting will take place Thursday, 9 a.m., at the City of Simi Valley Council Chambers, 2929 Tapo Canyon Rd., Simi Valley.