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.