City Council Approves Septic Ban Deal

Proponents and opponents of the Civic Center Area septic system ban criticize the plan.

The  voted 4-1 Monday night in favor of a deal with the Regional Water Quality and State Water Resources control boards to modify Malibu's Civic Center Area septic system ban that was approved in 2009 (Regional Water) and 2010 (State Water). The agreement includes an adjustment to the number of phases to rid the area of septic systems and hook up the properties to a sewer system from two to three. However, the third phase may never happen.

Proponents of the original plan, including several local environmental groups, told the council the deal had weakened the prohibition's ability to curb pollution of Malibu Creek and Malibu Lagoon. Some opponents of the prohibition restated their arguments that it was based on bad or outdated science. Also, they said it could harm property values.

Both sides agreed that there had not been enough time to study the agreement, which was placed on the city's website Friday afternoon, just three days before the meeting. This was the reason for Council member Pamela Conley Ulich's opposition to the deal.

The prohibition is based on the concept that Malibu's septic systems pollute the watershed. City officials were among those who told the water boards at the 2009 and 2010 hearings that this was based on outdated science. When the State Water board approved the prohibition last fall, the chair demanded Jim Thorsen and Regional Water Chair Sam Unger meet to make modifications.

"Of the options that we have available to us, which are basically courtrooms or this, I think this is definitely a smart way to start,” said Council member Lou La Monte of the modified prohibition.

La Monte and others on the council looked to the fact that this deal could be changed in the future because it is not a legal settlement, but rather a Memorandum of Understanding, which Christi Hogin said was not set in stone.

The portion of the original plan calling for commercial businesses in the area to get rid of septic systems by 2015 remains unchanged. Other properties—homes in Serra Canyon and Malibu Colony, the condo complexes along Civic Center Way, Adamson House, Surfrider Beach restrooms,  and —would need to comply by 2019.

Among the properties included in the new third phase are homes on Malibu Road and Malibu Knolls, HRL Laboratories, , ,  and several residential and commercial properties on the east side of Sweetwater Mesa. They would need to comply by 2025, but only if it were determined the first two phases of the prohibition were successful at reducing bacteria and nitrogen pollution of the lagoon.

Even if the third phase were given the OK, city and Regional Water officials could determine some properties do not need to comply if officials have "demonstrated [the properties] have no contribution to bacteria or nutrient impacts to Malibu Creek and Malibu Lagoon," the agreement states.

Kirsten James, Heal the Bay's water quality director, told the council the testing method laid out in the agreement made it so "these studies are highly unlikely to demonstrate anything." She was doubtful the third phase would ever go into effect.

"We don't think this Memorandum of Understanding will lead us to the water quality improvements that we are looking for in the lagoon and at the beaches," said James, whose opinion was shared at the meeting by representatives from Santa Monica Baykeeper and the Surfrider Foundation.

James was also joined in opposition by owners of properties located within the prohibition boundary, but for different reasons. Ozzie Silna, treasurer for the Serra Canyon Property Owners Association, said people in his neighborhood should not be forced into the system because, he said, they do not contribute to the watershed pollution.

"I haven't received one phone call from anybody that says, 'we want you to support this entire process,'" Silna said. "Everybody says, 'don’t let them go forward. Even if we have to sue them, we'll join the suit.'"

Malibu Road attorney Joan Lavine recently filed a lawsuit against the Regional and State water boards over the prohibition.

Silna and many others talked about a study by John Izbicki of the United States Geological Survey in conjunction with the city that found the fecal bacteria in the lagoon came from birds, not humans. The study was previewed at a council meeting in April and an eight-page report appears on the USGS website. The study itself is expected to be released soon.

Mayor John Sibert said this study does not tell the whole story.

"But [the prohibition] is not only about bacteria," he said. "It is about other nutrients. And it is important to recognize we have to deal with that."

The properties in the prohibition zone would need to hook up to what Thorsen has called a "centralized wastewater treatment facility." The system, which Thorsen said could cost up to $52 million, would be funded mostly through assessment districts formed by the property owners that hook up to it. If a majority of the owners do not approve one or all the districts (the properties in each phase would likely form separate districts), the city could explore other funding methods, Hogin said. She said that an assessment district rejection could also be "catastrophic," and could be a reason why the agreement would have to be readdressed.

Norm Haynie, a local developer and consultant to other developers, said building the sewer would be a mistake. He said a better option would be installing advanced onsite wastewater treatment systems on each property (some already have them).

"Money is scarce," Haynie said. "People are starving in this country. People are hungry. Do we just throw away $35 to $50 million dollars because—why? Because we made a decision based on bad science?"

This was a contrast to the opinion stated by Council member Jefferson "Zuma Jay" Wagner, who said a sewer "is an effective way to help with our clean water initiatives here at the city."

"We need to do this," Wagner said. "We need to step up, and we need to face the facts that we need to treat our water, which is right near water tables, right near the lagoon, right near state beaches and county beaches and private properties."

Many people were troubled by the limited amount of time they had to study the deal. Thorsen said its public release came late because he and Unger were still working on the document "up to the last minute." Thorsen added that he meets with various stakeholder groups on an almost monthly basis. Although they had not seen the final map, they had received information about the progress of the negotiation toward an agreement.

Thorsen advised the council against delaying a vote on the agreement because this would force the Regional Water board to postpone its July 14 vote on the deal since the council does not meet again until late July. He said it "was critical to keep moving forward." Conley Ulich disagreed.

"In my seven years plus that I've served on the City Council, this is the single biggest issue," she said. "And to only have four days to give the public input is just wrong."









Steve Woods July 04, 2011 at 03:19 PM
I have been on record for 30 years criticizing Tapia for dumping unnatural amounts of water that exacerbate the the Hydraulics in conjunction with Lagoon water tables seeping in and out of adjacent septics
Steve Woods July 04, 2011 at 03:59 PM
Dear Mr Comic Book character, Mr. Malibu ,, can you educate us on the hydraulics in the Civic Center flood Plain ?. Is there a limit to the amount of poop water that can be absorbed into the geology from all the septics in the low lying area surrounding the Civic Center ? Has Maximum capacity been reached ? or is it just a matter of years before the ground water cannot receive more untreated sewage without endangering the health of Humans and wildlife in the Lagoon ? Should we only look at Tapia or should we look at ALL Sources . It seems some want to bring attention to only one culprit while diverting attention away from another that would conflict with their own self interest .A good journalist will Question the motives on BOTH sides .
Mr. Malibu July 04, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Steve, Septics were in place since the 1920's in the colony and in the early 1960's we would swim in the lagoon & creek all the way up to the Malibu tunnel and never worry about pollution. When Tapia opened, it permanently destroyed this ecology. So don't tell me what the septics are doing before addressing the PRIMARY problem.
Mr. Malibu July 04, 2011 at 04:33 PM
furthermore, the residential septics have never assaulted the Malibu community in the way the shopping centers have. You go to these shopping centers in downtown Malibu and it stinks like a third world country. In this case, an operable proven functioning sewer system is needed, and not some hair brain idea of injecting it deep into the earth where it will simply cause more problems because mother nature did not intend to have massive amounts of sewage injected into the earth.
Steve Woods July 04, 2011 at 07:41 PM
I have been on record for 30 years denouncing the clean water discharges as well as the accidental spills from Tapia into the Creek , Just because I state that there are other points of pollution doesn't mean I have ever stood up in defense of Tapia , Please find the Quotes to the Contrary ! and being anti poop doesn't make someone Pro development ! Being Against toxic sludge - pro clean ecosytems in the lagoon and for its restoration doesn't make them an Animal killing evil greedy developer who is a kin to paving over paradise and putting up a parking lot !
Steve Woods July 04, 2011 at 07:43 PM
I have been on record for 30 years denouncing the clean water discharges as well as the accidental spills from Tapia into the Creek , Just because I state that there are other points of pollution doesn't mean I have ever stood up in defense of Tapia , Please find the Quotes to the Contrary ! and being anti poop doesn't make someone Pro development ! Being Against toxic sludge - pro clean ecosytems in the lagoon and for its restoration doesn't make them an Animal killing evil greedy developer who is a kin to paving over paradise and putting up a parking lot !
Mr. Malibu July 04, 2011 at 07:57 PM
there is no "toxic sludge" in the lagoon and keep the hell out of the lagoon with bulldozers. If anything, the wreckage caused in '83 by creating the fake lagoon should be reversed and the whole area restored to pre-1983, and done super consciously by hand. You're like the terminator monster who keeps coming back to promote the bulldozers, even coming off as an environmentalist characterizing Tapia's grievous damages as "accidental." Your "contribution" to this conversation is less than accidental - anyone reading carefully will see right through your b.s.
Steve Woods July 04, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Must be why the sludge was to be trucked out with Haz Mat guide lines .. And so you are going to restore the Pre 1983 Project by "hand " meaning you will be out there personally shoveling hundreds of truck loads of fill and carting off the Bridges ,, Good,, I am all for it especially since it will help the Lagoon circulate better thus having a better chance on improving oxygen levels for Mullets , Gobies , Steelhead and there predators . After you carry off tons and tons of fill in buckets to wherever you want to take it and replant with native marsh plants the Lagoon will have a much better chance of filtering out the Bird poo Stew of Bacteria's and viruses that are trapped and cooking in the Back channels west of the Bridges, I have no problem of you using shovels instead of Bulldozers , But you will still have to get it done during the dry season . I wonder how many months of shoveling it would be , before YOU and the volunteers will be begging for a bulldozer !
Steve Woods July 05, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Mr Malibu , if you want to be taken seriously you may want to retract your comic book prospectives of Hans's grip on the facts . He is out of your league and surfs circles around your insufficient wild claims of hydrology , Permits and Law .
Mr. Malibu July 05, 2011 at 06:06 AM
Steve, You and Hans will never be taken seriously, and if you WANT to be taken seriously - stay off of Patch so you don't continue to reveal your kindergarten tactics.
Hans Laetz July 05, 2011 at 11:40 AM
"You and Hans will never be taken seriously, and if you WANT to be taken seriously - stay off of Patch so you don't continue to reveal your kindergarten tactics." That just about sums this "conversation" up.
Steve Woods July 05, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Mr Malibu I don't think this community Forum here on Patch should only post comments that are agreeable with Mr Malibu's Viewpoints ,That would be anti-American . Wanting to shut down an opposing point of view on the 4th of July is revealing !
Mr. Malibu July 05, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Hans: inferred logic - you will never be taken seriously until you change... OH!!! I forgot... you are not capable of abstract reasoning...
Steve Woods July 06, 2011 at 04:58 PM
Try to stay on topic , this post is about the complexities of hydrology and far reaching consequences of the Septic ban approved by the City Council . 700,000 visitors came to Malibu beaches this last 4th of July weekend and Flushed there waste into our Septics , that is a bit more than our regular year around residential population . Can Malibu Septics handle that kind of load ???
Steve Woods September 12, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I see Mr Malibu has had several months to try to answer the issue of overloaded Septics that in one weekend Malibu had over 700,000 visitors. Can you think of any where else in the modern world that septics have been able to handle the loads Malibu does without the environmental / health problems that Malibu is constantly scolded for in state water quality testing?
Hans Laetz September 12, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Well, the septic tanks at Playas de Tijuana carry that load. And those beaches stink! Steve, the Malibu septic systems failed spectacularly on July 4th. People walking home from Broad Beach fireworks were treated to a stinky rivulet flowing out from the Trancas Market leach field, behind the Chevron. I posted pictures of the overloaded advanced onsite water treatment systems (SuperSeptic) tank at Trancas, from the 4th of July. These photos show raw sewage, with the solids removed, flow into a storm drain on PCH. No beach closure. No public notice. I had to catch a plane that night, so I do not know if there was any cleanup.
Steve Woods September 12, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Every time I used to consider eating at Guidos, I would get nauseated and repelled by the Stench wafting up through the parking lot manhole covers . I have lost my appetite to eat there or shop at Cross Creek !
Mr. Malibu September 12, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Steve, I was never in favor of overloaded septics and do not advocate ANY discharge from Pepperdine or Tapia. Yes, I too have been noting for 30 years about downtown Malibu stinking like the lowest third world country you can find. The idea of "deep injection" sounds like very serious trouble and could be catastrophic to the environment. But bulldozing the lagoon is totally asinine- that will not solve anything. If we all joined together (which would be miraculous in itself) we could make a great case for federal funding to totally solve the entire Malibu waste water issue by permanently blocking Tapia and Pepperdine from ANY discharging and then have a central system that would be piped back to Tapia which would have to reroute its discharge to another location besides Malibu Creek. They have already caused grievous damages for too many decades.
Andy Lyon September 12, 2011 at 04:53 PM
Hans, very unfortunate about the overflow, but by judging on how the owner of that property has treated the tenants do you expect anything less ??? They were just about to boot the market ...do you really think they were concerned with the levels of the tank?
Andy Lyon September 12, 2011 at 04:59 PM
maybe all the store owners in cross-creek could pitch in for the high end porta potties for the weekends . like the ones that studios use. every little kid that has to take a pee at the park there is flushing the toilet...that's a big waste of water and over running the system.
Mr. Malibu September 12, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Andy.. not such a bad idea except for - they would need some fairly serious maintenance to keep clean.... but that hardly is a permanent solution.
Hans Laetz September 12, 2011 at 05:45 PM
Thanks for the sympathy, but the point is that one stuck toilet valve on the 4th of July weekend caused the spectacular failure of a recently-installed, state of the art, high-tech OWTS (SuperSeptic). That system is less than 5 years old! You know, like the ones that some people think will solve all the septic problems in Malibu. The bottom line, Andy, is that septics and OWTS work, and work well, in most places. They do not work so good in heavy-use areas, or in intertidal zones. There is a huge body of science that proves that. And the simple fact is, at least one of Malibu's highly-touted, advanced high tech septic systems faile din a specatcular way on the 4th of July. The city did not issue a public statement, there was no public notice. How many other failures have occurred? We do not know.
Paul Grisanti September 12, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Steve that system was replaced at least two years ago. Walk around the center and see if you don't notice an improvement.
Andy Lyon September 12, 2011 at 06:51 PM
There is a big improvement in cross creek with all the new systems. Don't buy into the sewer lie ! All that will do is open the door for more over development per parcel in that area.
Andy Lyon September 12, 2011 at 07:02 PM
I would hardly call that a spectacular failure.... a spectacular failure would be a 24in sewer line breaking or failing , something that we don't have happen in Malibu. I don't care what you say Hans, there is no comparison.("solids removed"). The failure was there was a day lighting situation that was not addressed by the owners of the property or the city health officials. Your the hall monitor up there, what happened ??? Why weren't you raising hell? Could have been totally avoided or cut short, but again the fact that the market was leaving in less than a month and the way the owners have been treating all the remaining tenants , its no wonder that was allowed to happen.
Hans Laetz September 12, 2011 at 07:10 PM
I alerted the city to the 11pm July 4th spill - their first notice of it - when I got an email from a neighbor. I shot photos of it on the way to LAX and sent them to the city while on a plane to Switzerland. Its interesting to note that sewage spilled out of an adnacened, state of the art OWTS is no big deal to you. A river of raw poopwater is no big deal to you? The city failing to issue a public notice about a sewage spill in acceptable to you? Understood.
Andy Lyon September 12, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Where did I say it was acceptable ? What I said was you can't compare a total sewer line failure to a running toilet overloading a system. The fix would have been simple ...jiggle the handle or turn off the water to that particular toilet until the problem could be fixed. Do you know what the flow rate will be for the proposed sewer line ? I'm no expert, but my guess is it will be a tad stronger than a running toilet, and there won't be solids separated...it will be the whole deal. You know Hans, you can't begin to come close to the amount of time that I spend in the water where this sewer will be so close to, so if anyone would want clean water there it's me. We seem to have these self serving F grades at Malibu even though the water quality has dramatically improved there, but what we NEVER have there is a beach closure from a raw sewage spill from a sewer line, like everywhere else up and down the coast. Think about it.
Steve Woods September 13, 2011 at 01:04 AM
Just because someone thinks Malibu,s high water table can't handle Shallow Depth Septic Injections of untreated Human waste doesn't mean they are for Commercial Development ! It can actually mean you are AGAINST development and FOR having an environment free of overflowing Human waste leeching into tidal zones or bubbling out of Manhole covers in parking lots . I am for as little Commercial or even private development as possible in Malibu AND for an environment that is not overly saturated by Septic systems in high water tables near the Beaches or Waterways .
Andy Lyon September 13, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Woods...you're making no sense.
Steve Woods September 13, 2011 at 08:32 AM
Yeah , How can anyone be Anti Development AND for a Clean Environment . ? You must believe your own stereotype that anyone who criticizes failing septics is obviously an evil greedy Pro Sewer Commercial developer . This won't make sense to Mr Malibu either .


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