Saving Surfrider

Citizens speak out for clean water at Surfrider.

The Surfrider Foundation, Malibu Surfing Assn., Santa Monica Baykeeper and Heal the Bay held a joint press event Thursday morning focused on cleaning up chronically polluted, iconic Surfrider Beach. More than 50 Surfrider locals joined the environmental and surfing groups at the rally, bringing  attention to the two decades of “F” Beach Report Card grades at California’s most famous beach. Everyone echoed the common-sense edict that a day at the beach should never make you sick.

The Battle of the Bu has been going on even before Malibu became a city 18 years ago. The history has been filled with broken promises from Malibu officials about moving forward and recycling wastewater in the Civic Center area instead of relying on septic systems and on-site wastewater treatment systems. One delay after another has occurred. The city most often cites lack of funding as an excuse for making no progress on a water recycling plant. During the decades of inaction, no beach or coastal lagoon has been the site of more studies — ranging from groundwater contamination to fate-and-transport studies to health effects analyses.

Finally, last year, the Regional Water Board passed a resolution prohibiting on-site wastewater treatment at all commercial properties in the Civic Center by 2015 and all residential properties by 2019. The residential ban, in particular, has been strongly opposed by the city and many residents.

Next Tuesday, the State Water Board will determine whether or not to uphold the Regional Board prohibition or send it back to the panel to revisit prohibition requirements, including boundaries.

The environmental and surfing community is strongly supporting the Regional Board’s proposed measure.

An enforceable requirement is necessary to pressure Malibu to follow through on its verbal commitments to build a water recycling plant before 2015. Politics change in the community every two years with the election cycle, so Malibu has already had second, third, fourth and fifth chances to do its part to clean up Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. Now its leaders need a legal requirement to meet the nutrient and fecal bacteria requirements under the federal Clean Water Act.

Tuesday’s vote will decide the fate of Surfrider. Will the State Board vote to protect the public health of the 1 million surfers and beachgoers that come to Surfrider every year? Or will it maintain the heartbreaking status quo of Surfrider being the home of the perfect right and one of California’s most polluted beaches? We will know soon enough.

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