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Ordinance to Put Limits on Septic Waste Transfers in the Works

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

City staff is seeking direction from the Malibu City Council on a draft ordinance that looks to address complaints about a sewage smell from trucks transferring septic waste on Malibu roadways.

The council will discuss the draft ordinance on pumper truck transfers at its Dec. 10 meeting at Malibu City Hall, according to a newly released agenda.

In late September, the Malibu Wastewater Advisory Committee voted to recommend turning 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.

The city's Local Coastal Program does not address pumper truck transfers, but does allow wastewater storage and hauling in the commerical zone with a conditional use permit.

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.

During the September meeting, 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.

Andy Lyon, who is also on the committee, said he believed 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.

Wendi Werner December 01, 2012 at 01:04 AM
The reality is that when people are coming here to visit State parks properties and leave their trash and poop, State parks should be held accountable for what the City gets violations for.
Wendi Werner December 01, 2012 at 01:14 AM
The City has spent aprox. 70 million dollars on water quality upgrades. You are right J.Flo, the sky is not falling.....
Wendi Werner December 01, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Can someone explain where the new sewer line will end up? Hyperian plant? Trucked out? Deep well injection? Where is all of our poop going to end up? As I understand it will not be leaving Malibu.......
Cece Stein December 01, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Wendi - what are you referring to specifically when it comes to where the 70 million was allocated? Paradise Cove? Legacy Park? Where? Details please...
Cece Stein December 01, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Agreed Wendi - State Park's is responsible and will continue to be responsible for their properties... 90% of State Park's properties in So. Cal use Porta Potties on their properties. They have much higher standards and truck the waste to treatment plants so it won't impact ground water or nearby receiving waters. Now let's talk about the majority of Malibu's beaches which are NOT State Park's responsibilities. Who cleans up after them? The answer to that is NOONE. Therefore F grades - consistently.
Cece Stein December 01, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Hopefully Hyperian and not Surfrider.
Hans Laetz December 01, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Solids will be trucked out, probably to Kern County, The LA Times just ran an article on the politics of this: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/25/local/la-me-central-valley-20121126 L.A. County does not allow the pumping transfer on county roads outside the city limits? Interesting. What I want to know is, why are the transfers necessary? Is it simply to consolidate loads? Or do the receiving facilities charge less per truckload, making it financially important to consolidate? Wendi, the new sewer line will end in 2 places: the solids will go into trucks hauling up I-5 to Buttonwillow, where it will be cooked to kill microbes, then spread to kill the stench, then used for fertilizer. The liquids will be cleaned to Title 22 standards -- nearly pure -- and then injected into the aquifer under Legacy Park. The city says the water will not surface or raise water levels, becaue there is clay above and below the sand layer they plan to inject into. This aquifer is ripped down the middle by the Malibu Coastal Fault, an active slip-strike fault that is given a 35 percent chance of a greater than 7.0 magnitude quake within the next 30 years by the USGS. The city has agreed with the state Water Board that this is a good idea. Niether agency has studied the potential for the injection of hundreds of millions of tons of water into the upper reaches of the fault, and have offered no evidence that the clay barrier is capable of keeping this water out of the fault.
steve dunn December 01, 2012 at 03:03 AM
The sewage will not be leaving our town. It is the very people that CeCe has been supporting who have enforced the septic ban. Feeling like a used tool????
steve dunn December 01, 2012 at 03:20 AM
@ Hans. Where will the sewer lines here end? The cost of pumping septic tanks to transfer the poop to Kern County will never be cost effective. Thanks for the article. Missed it.
Cece Stein December 01, 2012 at 03:22 AM
I support clean water Steve - I don't care how it happens. You live in one of THE MOST VULNERABLE areas in Malibu, you should want it too. For the record, I USE TOOLS, THEY DON'T USE ME.
Cece Stein December 01, 2012 at 03:38 AM
I don't understand how you could be a surfer Steve and not support clean water - WHATEVER IT TAKES. How many of your surfer buddies have gotten sick or worse - DIED from surfing in fecal coliform contaminated waters? It's no brainer. CLEAN IT UP.
J. Flo December 01, 2012 at 03:44 AM
By FAR the majority of Malibu's beaches show excellent grades, over 98% are showing the highest ratings in safety A and A+, wet and dry. So important to be factual here!
Hans Laetz December 01, 2012 at 03:46 AM
We're talking about different things. Raw sewage, like from a septic tank, cannot be economically hauled any distance, correct. It gets trucked to City of L-A or L-A county sewage plants, who accept it for $$$. I believe the plan for Malibu is for the pipe to end at a treatment plant, either (a) roughly behind the courthouse or (b) on the Colony Center's leach field across the street from the county sewage plant in Effluent Canyon I mean Winter Canyon. Oh oh, don't look now, the Malibu Coastal Fault crosses that plot. Oh well, the official City of Malibu policy towards the Malibu Coastal Fault is "neener neener neener I can't see you." The water will be piped back over to Legacy Park, for injection into the earthquake fault, which the city says is no problemo. The solids will be processed to a density far greater than normal septic tank slop, then get a truck ride to somewhere further away from the Malibu Coastal Fault. Not cheap, but doable. You know, our humble little septic tank gets pumped every 10 years, functions well and does not pollute the groundwater or ocean or use energy. As long as a septic tank is working correctly and not in the surf line, it's a green solution. Ewwww.
Wendi Werner December 01, 2012 at 04:34 AM
We all support clean water. This will not clean up the water. The third party agencies that you support suing our City does not clean our water. Prove it that anyone has died from human FIB. or better that they did not have a compromised immune system and got sick from something else. Gimme a beak. Heal the Bay just released that 98 % of the beaches are clean. So what are you still squawking about . Coming from someone who doesn't surf or attend any of these meetings, you sure do seem to think you know a lot. Maybe you can ask your friend from the heavens for direction.
J. Flo December 01, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Trying to grasp reality here. Heal The Bay, Water Quality Report Card. http://brc.healthebay.org/?f=1&st=CA Every single beach tested in Malibu got exceptional grades - wet and dry, an A or A+, except 1 spot at the pier, an A+ in the dry season, F wet and Carbon an A+ dry and a B wet. 25 beaches tested, wet and dry, that's 50 grades. 96% tested in the exceptionally safe, excellent category of A or A+. 2% B. That's 49 out of 50. Get the pier cleaned and Malibu is 100% safe according to these reports. Great news.
Wendi Werner December 01, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Nice try on the State Parks response. Clearly you have not been to any of the hearings.
Cece Stein December 01, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Wow Wendi - you know how to dig deep - can you do the same for septics? I get all the information I need - it's called modern technology -as I have very clearly stated to you on many occasions. Obviously it went right over your head. Speaking of over head, I would love to see a picture or two ( three ) of you surfing? I don't need to surf to understand. I have spent a lot of time on these beaches ( in Malibu ) as a child and now as an adult. Let's see what the report cards say after the rains. Sqwaking may be in your vocabulary, but it's not in mine... p.s. My "friend" in the heavens ( so 6 months ago - you're not over using that as an excuse yet? ) got her direction from the SURFER I live with. The same guys who has spent the last 30 years here in Malibu, living, learning and listening about everything we are talking about right now.
Cece Stein December 01, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Agreed, most of western Malibu is rural enough and set back from the ocean to handle well functioning septic systems. But what about eastern Malibu between the Pier and Topanga along PCH where many of the older houses and APARTMENT BUILDINGS barely have a foundation's grip on the bluff and some are built out on pilings? How is it possible that these leech fields are allowed within inches of the ocean and sometimes with almost no earth for a proper percolation. Anyone who walks below those houses at low tide knows there are some sewage problems from lateral drainage through the coastal bluff. This area should have closed systems that are pumped regularly via truck or get piped down to Hyperion. After all, this area along Eastern Malibu is already maxed out as far as development goes. It would be alarming if the County were to test for human fecal coliform in this stretch of the coastline.
Hans Laetz December 01, 2012 at 05:49 PM
J., could saying the beaches are "100 percent safe" be unwittingly overstating things a bit? The HTB tests only measure bad stuff in the water. It does not test for pathogens or nutrients from septic tanks in the wet sand, dry sand, or in what Dusty Peake used to call the "polio ponds." There may be some combination of natural bird poop pathogens brewing in human nutrients on beaches. Or pathogens come from the "rack" - the decaying stuff in the surf line. We truly do not know. But we do know that in 1855, the first scientific link between raw human sewage and disease was proved in London. The overwhelming body of science since then has shown that human contact with sewage -- even partly treated sewage -- is harmful. Dr. Izbicki's Malibu lagoon study seemed to directly contradict that enormous body of science. As Dr. Izbicki wrote, his Malibu Lagoon findings were preliminary and needed much work. They were published two years or so ago, and were supposed to have been peer reviewed and published by the USGS by now. That has not happened. Not have any corroborating studies been published. It is not scientifically accurate to say that septic tanks are automatically unsafe. Nor is it accurate to say that beaches, where septic tank sludge levels rise and fall with the high tide, are 100 percent safe.
J. Flo December 01, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Yes, Hans "unwittingly overstating things a bit". :) More of a reaction to extreme and alarmed hyperbole. If 1 F is going to be consistently pounded on, the 48 A+ - A's, and 1 B need to be highlighted. The odds in this particular testing report for Malibu, 98%, fall overwhelmingly to the "Safe", "excellent grade". There is no "perfect" or 100%, you're absolutely correct! Our oceans are polluted, our air is polluted, our ground, our food . . . sad state of affairs. Some links are much more clear and proven than others. This one isn't. Will be very interested to see the peer review if it happens. Have you looked into the progress of it happening?
J. Flo December 01, 2012 at 08:40 PM
BTW Hans, off topic - can't find your Blog on being prepared for emergencies, but want to thank you! Got me off my procrastination - gotten 4 new LED battery operated lanterns in case of power outages. Like them so much have ordered 2 more - come in handy all the time. More supplies on the way. Appreciate you taking the time to spell that out!
Hans Laetz December 01, 2012 at 09:07 PM
A friend says Izbicki published last summer. She is right, and I did not find that this morning when I searched the web. Apparently the local press didn't get word, and it's not in the city's collection of online water documents. Highlights: -- Samples from water-table wells contained as much as 70% wastewater, and Fecal Indicator Bacteria concentrations in those samples were generally less than the detection limit. -- 12% of samples from nearby ocean beaches exceeded the EPA single sample enterococci standard for marine recreational water. -- Human-associated Bacteroidales, an indicator of human-fecal contamination, were not detected in water from wells, Malibu Lagoon, or the near-shore ocean. -- Bacteroidales and Fimicutes Operational Taxanomic Units (OTUs) present in OWTS were largely absent in groundwater.
Hans Laetz December 01, 2012 at 09:08 PM
-- in contrast, 50% of Bacteroidales and Fimicutes OTUs present in the near-shore ocean were also present in gull feces. -- Data showed that microbial communities in groundwater were different and less abundant than communities in OWTS, Malibu Lagoon, or the near-shore ocean. -- However, organic compounds indicative of wastewater (such as fecal sterols, bisphenol-A and cosmetics) were present in groundwater having a high percentage of wastewater and were present in groundwater discharging to the ocean. -- FIB in the near-shore ocean varied with tides, ocean swells, and waves. Movement of water from Malibu Lagoon through the sand berm at the mouth of the Lagoon contributed FIB to the adjacent beach at low tide. -- Similar increases in FIB concentrations did not occur at beaches adjacent to unsewered residential development, although wastewater indicator compounds and radon-222 (indicative of groundwater discharge) were present. [More] -- High FIB concentrations at high tide were not related to groundwater discharge, but may be related to FIB associated with debris accumulated along the high-tide line.
Hans Laetz December 01, 2012 at 09:15 PM
You could obviously write a PhD on this. Boil this down to the bones, and we see that godawful pollution (but NOT human gut bacteria) is flowing into the groundwater, the lagoon and then Surfrider Beach. The "human" Fecal Indicator Bacteria that are always causing problems are not from people's waste, but are added back into the people pollution by gulls. So the water is contaminated, dangerous, and sickening NOT because of poopwater bearing human pathogens, but because of poopwater bearing animal pathogens that mimic our enemies. I am glad to see this abstract. When I get home I will buy a copy of the study. Maybe the city can post it?
Hans Laetz December 01, 2012 at 09:17 PM
My kid came home from college and asked "dad, why do you have a red peppermill in every room?"
J. Flo December 01, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Great laugh -
Terry December 02, 2012 at 12:26 AM
the question was why the septic transfers? the answer is the big trucks have difficulty going up the canyons and backing into driveways and things like that. accidents would probably increase with the large septic haulers on our streets. that or u could not get your septic pumped. the reason for the haulers is the per load sur charges, cost of multiple drivers and other related items. having fewer trucks actually on the highway is prefferable. be thankful the septic companies in malibu are doing such a good job. there service is a blessing as there are lots of systems needing occasional pumping. we are trying to cure a situation that is the best case senario. the city should provide an area to do these transfers. so more "types" might say it should be on cross creek in front of the lumberyard or at city hall. "just kidding"
Wendi Werner December 02, 2012 at 03:26 AM
The USGS peer reviewed study has been published. There have been other studies published, as well. NOAA as well as studies from UCSB.
J. Flo December 02, 2012 at 04:45 AM
BTW the ocean will always be more polluted after rains, always. Run-off. Yards are full of chemicals, household pollutants, garbage in canyons, oil and gasoline on roads, it all washes straight to the ocean. They try to educate the public, but our society doesn't seem to care very much. Different but same problem - people using rat poisons that end up killing precious wildlife. All very disheartening.
J. Flo December 02, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Fascinating. Want to sit down and read this. A valuable service you posting this!

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