Water board bans septic systems in central, eastern Malibu

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board voted late Thursday to ban septic systems in central and eastern Malibu. New septic systems will not be permitted in the broader Civic Center area and owners of existing systems will have to halt wastewater discharges within a decade.

The board’s staff recommended the prohibition of septic systems in most of the eastern portion of Malibu due to its assessment that they are the major cause of the pollution of Malibu’s watershed. The plan includes an end to future permitting of septic systems in the commercial areas of the Civic Center and the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway from Serra Road to Sweetwater Canyon, as well as the residential areas of Malibu Colony, Malibu Road, Serra Retreat, Sweetwater Mesa and the Malibu Knolls.

About 425 residents in the prohibition zone will be required to pay about $500 per month to cover the cost of hooking into a $52 million centralized wastewater treatment facility, while about 45 businesses will face payments of up to $20,000 per month, according to city projections.

Property owners in commercial areas will have to comply by 2015, and residents in Malibu Knolls, Serra Retreat and other residential areas will have until 2019.

The location of the treatment facility has not yet been determined, but City Manger Jim Thorsen on Tuesday said two undeveloped properties are under consideration: the Wave parcel, located behind the Malibu Courthouse and Malibu Library, and the La Paz property, located on Civic Center Way just south of the Malibu Library.

The city’s estimated $52 million price for a wastewater treatment facility does not include the purchase of land, which could further increase the cost. Thorsen said land in the Civic Center area can generate $2 million per acre and that negotiations are underway with Pepperdine University, which co-owns the Wave property with other private owners.

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Acquisition of the La Paz property would not add to the $52 million price tag, as its owners have agreed to donate two acres of it to the city as part of a pending development plan. Yet, development could be delayed due to a lawsuit filed in December by Santa Monica Baykeeper, challenging the city’s approval of the property’s environmental impact report. Further delay may also be caused by the California Coastal Commission’s decision in February to extend its review time for the La Paz property up to one year.

Initial plans to build a wastewater treatment facility at Legacy Park were scuttled after the city determined there was not enough land to do so.

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

Thorsen three weeks ago said the city could sue the state board, but that no statements would be made until a final decision is reached.

Check next week’s newspaper for the full story.

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