Ooh, ooh that smell …

Point Dume Village

Since its opening in May, residents say they have been suffering from odors emanating from the Point Dume Village center.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

As residents have continued to complain about smells they say have been emanating from the Point Dume Village shopping center since it opened at the end of May last year, city staff and a site contractor have been trying to find the source of the odor and abate it. A solution has not yet been reached.

Tami Clark, a Point Dume resident and Heathercliff Homeowners Association Board member, said she and her neighbors have been contacting the city and EPD Consultants, a civil engineering firm, since the market opened about a septic smell coming from the center’s parking lot, on Heathercliff Road and around her home, which is located on Heathercliff. She said there was no smell prior to the opening of the Pavilions grocery store at the center.

“The city knows they have a problem over here, but they’re just not taking the right strategies to correct it,” said Point Dume resident Kerry Flynn who said the smell has been particularly potent the last few weeks. “I don’t feel [the residents] should have to get the smell of the market coming across the street into where we live.”

Plaza owner Zan Marquis, in an earlier interview, said he planned on upgrading the shopping center and that the Pavilions store was part of this process. During the summer, Marquis said he planned on upgrading and replacing the existing onsite septic treatment system, which was out of date and might not be able to handle the increased number of customers coming to the store.

EPD Consultants, a wastewater construction management and development company that specializes in wastewater and stormwater management, has been running tests for the past seven months in an attempt to find solutions to stop the smell, and has been corresponding with the residents about its progress.

During the summer, Kevin Poffenbarger, project engineer with EPD, oversaw the replacement of a drain valve, odor blower and manhole. By October, the smells reappeared and a series of tests found a few sources of odor. Actions were taken to mitigate the smell, Poffenbarger said, including completely upgrading and replacing the onsite wastewater treatment system, but, according to residents, the odor continued.

Poffenbarger said EPD then smoke tested the system for leaks and resealed above ground towers. Ninety percent of the center’s septic system is underground, said Craig George, Environmental and Building Safety manager for the city, but 10 percent of it is above ground, mainly the towers that hold and treat the septic drainage. George said it is believed that the towers are the main source of the odors. However, Poffenbarger said, two stormwater drains next to the market might also be contributing to the smells. Additional efforts to pinpoint the odors’ source have been to send an onsite monitor to the center daily from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. to make note of any odors in the area.

“We have invested a considerable amount of time and money thus far to address the odors emanating from the above ground treatment system towers,” Poffenbarger said. “This is a very complex problem with more than one source. Once a specific source is identified, we are able to address.”

George said an odor monitor had been placed within the system that indicated that odors, while at a low reading, were still present in the system as of December. He said the odors were attributed to the septic system and each problem or source was mitigated when discovered, but they have continued to find additional sources. George said EPD consultants have submitted a new advanced underground system for the entire shopping center that is currently in the review process and needs approval from the city, a process that should take 30 to 60 days. The new system will be entirely underground.

“The problem has become similar to herding cats. As one issue is resolved, another seems to appear,” George said.