To ensure quicker and more certain progress on improving ocean water quality, the City of Malibu will ask the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) on September 21 to return the technically unfeasible and politically unachievable septic ban resolution to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) for modification, which can be brought back to the State Board as quickly as possible.

The City will ask the State Board to provide guidance to the Regional Board to revise the geographic boundaries the Regional Board adopted last year so that the community can move aggressively forward with its more targeted, feasible and politically achievable wastewater treatment alternative.

“As a surfer who has spent much of my life in the ocean, improving water quality is a top priority for me – as it is for all of the City’s current leadership,” said Malibu Mayor Jefferson Wagner. “There is no time for delay on such an important public health matter.  The Regional Board’s proposed prohibition zone will lead to continued conflict that will stall progress to accomplish the clean water goals that we all share, while Malibu’s community-based wastewater treatment solution has the support needed for fast and certain progress on protecting public health and improving ocean water quality.”

The septic prohibition boundaries the Regional Board adopted last year encompass nearly 550 residences and businesses in Malibu’s Civic Center, making it technically and politically unfeasible and unachievable because the infiltration area is not available for dispersing large quantities of treated wastewater into a small aquifer.

Despite the City’s commitment to maximizing recycling opportunities, approval and implementation of the Regional Board’s resolution would make it necessary for the City to install an ocean outfall or direct discharge into the Malibu Creek aquifer to disperse the treated wastewater. Either approach is expected to face staunch opposition from environmental groups and others, which would delay actions and block progress on improving water quality.

“We strongly support the Regional Board’s clean water goals, but the currently proposed expansive prohibition zone would create insurmountable obstacles and uncertainty that would stall action,” said Mayor Wagner. “The community-based solution we’re offering has the local support needed to secure the necessary financing for building and operations, which can make a new wastewater treatment facility a reality.”

The key action needed for implementation of a wastewater treatment facility is the formation of an assessment district to finance construction and operation. Commercial and residential property owners support the community-based solution Malibu is seeking – making the community’s alternative wastewater treatment plan financially and politically achievable and quicker to implement. The Regional Board’s expanded prohibition zone, however, is unlikely to garner the community support needed to establish the larger assessment district it would require.

The Regional Board’s currently proposed septic ban would:

  • Prohibit existing commercial treatment systems from discharging after 2015
  • Prohibit existing residential systems from discharging after 2019
  • Prohibit any new discharge within the Regional Board-defined prohibition area

In contrast, the community-based wastewater treatment solution would target users with the highest potential impact to groundwater by focusing on the homes and businesses closest to Malibu Creek. It would allow construction of a feasibly-sized wastewater treatment plant for which there is adequate percolation area – avoiding the need for an ocean outfall or a discharge into the Malibu Creek aquifer.

The community-supported alternative would be completed in three phases:

  • Phase 1: Centralized wastewater treatment plant for highest users in Civic Center (treat up to 190,000 gallons per day, completion 2015)
  • Phase 2: Centralized wastewater treatment expansion for Serra Retreat, closest homes to Malibu Creek (treat up to 50,000 gallons per day, completion 2019)
  • Disinfection added to Malibu Colony homes and beachfront restaurants (completion 2019)

“The City’s current leadership is committed to improving ocean water quality, having invested more than $50 million on clean water, which is more per capita than any other city in California,” said Mayor Wagner. “In Malibu, we are not dragging our feet. The new leadership is moving aggressively forward to ensure all our residents and visitors enjoy a healthy and clean ocean.”

The City has already allocated more than $2.6 million to complete the engineering and environmental studies for the community-based wastewater treatment solution. It also is moving aggressively to improve ocean water quality with the completion of the Paradise Cove Clean Ocean Project and the Marie Canyon Stormwater Treatment Facility.

On October 2, it will celebrate the opening of Legacy Park, one of the most ambitious and innovative stormwater and urban runoff projects in all of California. Malibu is the only city in the state to build three stormwater treatment facilities, and Legacy Park vastly expands the City’s capacity to capture stormwater for treatment.