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Proposed Ordinance Targets Malibu Sewage Odors From Pumper Trucks

The ordinance would require smaller trucks that transfer septic waste to bigger trucks to use odor-reducing carbon filters on Malibu roadways.

A newly drafted ordinance is seeking to address recent complaints about a sewage smell from trucks transferring septic waste on Malibu roadways.

The Malibu Wastewater Advisory Committee voted on Thursday to turn down an outright ban on the transfers within Malibu's city limits, recognizing that septic systems are an integral part of most Malibu homes and businesses. 

"Because we have a decentralized system in the City of Malibu, the pumper trucks are part of the infrastructure," said Steve Braband, vice chair of the committee. "... The million dollar question is where would be a suitable area for the transfers?”

According to the committee, the smaller trucks are needed to traverse Malibu's narrow roadways to reach homes. The smaller trucks then transfer their septic waste loads into larger trucks, which make three-to-four trips a day to Carson and Van Nuys.

Instead of an outright ban on city streets, the committee recommended a draft ordinance that would restrict where and when the transfers could take place, as well as require all trucks to use odor-reducing equipment.

The committee proposed that the city conduct a feasibility study of two or three sites that would have little impact on residential areas during the hours of 1 to 5 a.m. In addition, the committee asked for the city to consider a transfer facility at the future Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Officials from the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility declined the city's earlier request to allow the transfers to take place on its property, according to Andrew Sheldon, the City of Malibu's environmental health administrator.

"We got feedback from management that is not an option at this time," Sheldon said. "The reaction was overall not encouraging for us to pursue that."

Richard Sherman, co-chair of the committee, said the trucks are part of Malibu’s infrastructure.

“They are a necessary evil, if you want to think about it that way,” Sherman said.

He said he is aware the transfer of effluent causes a visual and odor problem at times.

“I think Tapaia will not do it for political reasons. It has nothing to do with reality,” Sherman said, adding that he believes someone needs to put pressure on L.A. County and Tapia.

Norm Haynie, chair of the committee, said the pumping should take place in an area and at a time that has the least impact on residents.

"If you don’t see it that’s fine, but if you can smell it, that’s not acceptable," Haynie said.

Andy Lyon, who is also on the committee, said he believes the city cannot ban the transfers.

"It seems like without any spills on record, it’s really become this thing like the food truck and the junk trunks," Lyon said.

He added that the city needs to find a place where the trucks can pump that is hidden from the public's eye.

“It will just be the excuse of why we need sewers," Lyon said.

Ely Jr. Simental, owner of Ely Jr.'s Pumping Service, said he alternately parks his trucks near Heathercliff Road and Pacific Coast Highway and Civic Cener Way near Malibu Canyon Road.

"I try to shift from one site to the other site because I know the people daily see them," Simental said.

He said L.A. County does not allow the pumping on county roads outside the city limits and that his company has a record of no spills and no traffic accidents. 

Simental said commercial pumping can take place in the early morning hours, but that the pumper trucks cannot enter residential neighborhoods until after 7 a.m.

The committee's recommendation will go back to the city attorney and the city manager.

Christine Weis September 30, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Instead of the Legacy Park, why didn't we build a city sewer system? 50+ year old septic systems are failing all over Malibu. We have a lot more to worry about than odor!
Cece Stein September 30, 2012 at 03:41 PM
This problem will be getting more and more chronic as increasingly more and more visitors come to use trails, beaches, restaurants and shop for name brand designer clothing. Expect more and more stomach wrenching fumes wafting up from the ground and more septic pump out transfers as more and more people gotta go when they gotta go, unless you can convince the 1.5 million visitors a month to hold it in til they get back home and out of the Malibu city limits. Good luck with that.
hellwood September 30, 2012 at 05:04 PM
do you want sewer pipes and toilets on the backbone trail too? the fact that coastal accesses are being opened to the public with no toilets IS relevant, but still not an excuse to cry "sewer". a sewer is not going to stop the hikers, swimmers, horses, wild animals, and the bums. even if you put bathrooms everywhere, people would still use the bushes. I got it, "Malibu Diapers"...problem solved!
Cece Stein September 30, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Very funny...or very progressive?! The "Malibu Diapers" will work fine butt ( pun intended ) won't they end up in our trash cans ? PHEW!! So, maybe visitors will be required to take there diapers out of the city limits in special diaper bags? Might be a hard sell though . Nobody is crying "sewer ", just pointing out the pitfalls and consequences of aging, third world human waste disposal methods for an area that has already lost its rural character. If not sewers, what is an alternative that does not leech into our groundwater, beaches, creeks, lagoons and NOSTRILS? Being open minded.
Cece Stein September 30, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Hellwood, Your hypothetical plan for piping in sewers to the Back Bone trail is a tad extreme. Those trails like other back country trails have a "Pack it In, Pack it Out" policy, just as there is in the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada's. This means Backpackers not only have to pack out trash but pack OUT their #2 and toilet paper too! Burying campers human waste in the the ground is no longer an acceptable practice in today's age of growing populations that impact fragile ecosystems and public health issues.
hellwood September 30, 2012 at 08:07 PM
first, we need to motivate visitors and locals to use the restrooms that are available. who here pees in the ocean? raise your hands.
hellwood September 30, 2012 at 08:18 PM
also, there is more dog crap on these beaches than one would ever imagine. visitors come to these public accesses here with their dogs, and walk right past the NO DOGS ON BEACH sign as if they are illiterate, and proceed to let their dogs huck mud like its going out of style. Something needs to be done.
Cece Stein September 30, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I can't argue with you there Hellwood. You are right on the money ( and funny too... but true )!
hellwood September 30, 2012 at 08:49 PM
here is something interesting that Malibu should consider: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/09/16/converting-human-waste-to-energy-here-today-dung-farms-booming/
Cece Stein September 30, 2012 at 10:45 PM
http://pmcbiotec.com/index.php/applications/municipal-waste/ This Biotech plant sounds great... but you still have to have sewer pipes that transport the waste from commercial buildings and residents to the plant site, unless you build a plant at every business and in every residential back yard. Where would you propose putting this Biotech Plant? Hopefully not up wind from my open windows.
hellwood September 30, 2012 at 10:56 PM
from the article: Sinton's dream is to put a PMC bioreactor in every backyard. "The technology scales down to fit inside a portable toilet," he says. "I'd like to make it so easy and cheap that we can sell them in Home Depot and give everyone a good source of power as well as a better way to get rid of their waste than flushing it down the toilet. That's like washing money right down the pipes."
Cece Stein September 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM
You can be the leader and show us the way. If it works, we'll follow - I just got approval to put one in every toilet in the house next week. Steve will even install it.
hellwood September 30, 2012 at 11:32 PM
its never too late to save the world, but it would be easier to do it together
Cece Stein September 30, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Hellwood for President! I'll give Steve VP and take Secretary Of State ( give Hilary a run for her money ).Let's change the world! One toilet at a time! We're in!
MADAN IYENGAR October 02, 2012 at 03:06 PM
modern technologies provide solution..without CAPEX..only that these have to be provided with an opportunity to check merits and benefits..well only time will tell Cheers Madan Iyengar www.ozosciences.com
Terry October 03, 2012 at 04:24 PM
the city needs to make upgrading a septic system a situation that is easier and requires no or only a very minimum permit fee to the city. many people cannot afford to go to the city to upgrade their system so they just keep pumping every week. this includes a lot of older condo projects in malibu and the city just bleeds these properties in fees and requirements. the older buildings in malibu are our low cost living situation but the greed of the city for money----they just cant help themselves. low cost living is something the city talks about but they sure dont help
Cece Stein October 03, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Just curious, why do these Condo units need to keep getting pumped every week? If those septics, which were relatively new, need upgrades, what about many of the much older ones all over Malibu?

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