New water treatment facility opens at Paradise Cove

Mayor Jefferson Wagner and legendary surfer Laird Hamilton address the crowd at the unveiling of the new storm water treatment facility at Paradise Cove on Monday. Photo by Dana Fineman

The facility is capable of capturing, cleaning and disinfecting nearly 1 million gallons of storm water per day from Ramirez Canyon and surrounding areas.

By Jonathan Friedman / Special to The Malibu Times

Government officials and environmental leaders joined forces at the Paradise Cove Pier on a cold and windy Monday morning to celebrate the completion of a storm water treatment facility that is expected to greatly curb pollution of the local beach notorious for poor water quality.

Nearly 100 people attended the event, including famed surfer Laird Hamilton and Frankie Avalon, the teen heartthrob who starred in numerous films including “Beach Blanket Bingo” that used Paradise Cove as a backdrop.

“This is one step in a number of things that we’ve been trying to do here in recent years to try to keep the water clean,” Mayor Pro Tem John Sibert said. He also mentioned the storm water treatment facility at Legacy Park, expected to open in the fall, that will curb storm water pollution in the Civic Center area; and the city’s planning for a wastewater treatment plant in the Civic Center area. Malibu has put $2.6 million toward the initial stages for that project.

Sibert added, “It’s important if we’re going to deal with these issues that we find ways to do them cooperatively rather than combatively. I think that’s an important step forward.”

The $1 million facility was funded by the city and Proposition 40 Clean Beach Initiative state grant money approved by the State Water Resources Control Board. Paradise Cove Mobilehome Park owner Steve Dahlberg was praised by the speakers for giving an easement on the property to allow for construction, although he actually had no choice since he was under pressure to reach a solution for Paradise Cove’s water quality issues.

The treatment facility is capable of capturing, cleaning and disinfecting nearly 1 million gallons of storm water per day from Ramirez Canyon and the surrounding area. It will be able to handle all but the most severe rain storms, city officials and environmentalists said. The introduction of this plant comes shortly after the installation of a new sewage treatment plant at Paradise Cove.

For many years, Paradise Cove regularly appeared on the Beach Bummer List, which shows the top 10 most polluted beaches in the state, according to environmental watchdog Heal the Bay. The list is based on Heal the Bay’s annual beach report card, which rates water quality on a scale of A to F. Water quality grades have improved at Paradise Cove since the installation of the sewage treatment plant. And Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, said he expects the beach to receive straight As with the storm water facility in place.

“This is arguably one of the most beautiful spots in all of Santa Monica Bay,” Gold said. “I’ve always thought so myself. And obviously the beauty has been skin deep for some time from the standpoint that something that looks this beautiful has unfortunately had a very poor water quality for well over a decade on Heal the Bay’s beach report card.”

Gold applauded Santa Monica Baykeeper, a regular courtroom foe of the City of Malibu on water quality issues, for first introducing the concept of improving Paradise Cove water quality.

Representatives from the offices of Sen. Fran Pavley (who authored Proposition 40), Assemblymember Julia Brownley and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky spoke at the event. They applauded the City of Malibu for getting the project done.

“Paradise Cove, let’s all admit, has been a problem for a long time,” Susan Nissman, Yaroslavsky’s senior field deputy, said. “There are a lot of mysteries associated with it and a lot of theories. We’ve all worked very hard together and I want to commend the City of Malibu…for your dedication, perseverance, tenacity and seeing this through to this wonderful conclusion. And we expect to see some really great beach report cards as a result of this critical effort.”

Mayor Jefferson Wagner arrived at the event midway through on a paddleboard alongside surfing legend Hamilton. Speaking to the attendees in his wetsuit, the shivering mayor praised the project and said he looks forward to the introduction of other pollution-fighting measures in Malibu such as Legacy Park. He then introduced Avalon to say some words.

“Progress is sometimes something that is good and sometimes something that is bad,” the still youthful-looking 70-year-old Avalon said. “Well, we’re getting it good again because 43 years ago [when the first of his films was made] we never talked about it, we never even thought about it being polluted waters.”