Knocked Out in Malibu!

The city of Malibu scored an absolute knockout Thursday in Round 3 of the battle for improved water quality at Surfrider, Malibu Lagoon, and nearby beaches. Watching Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin close the done deal for weakened septic system regulations with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board was like watching boxing champ Manny Pacquiao take on Woody Allen.  No contest. Hogin should be in line for a big raise for negotiating a deal for Malibu that will save ratepayer’s millions at the probable expense of water quality at beaches visited by millions of visitors each year.  And she did this when Malibu’s only leverage was its stated threat of litigation against the Regional Water Board for enforcing previously approved prohibitions. The board had already unanimously voted for regulations against new septic tanks and the phase out of existing ones in the civic center area in favor of a centralized waste water treatement and recycling facility.

The reward for Malibu’s threat to sue was a unanimous 6-0 Regional Board vote to approve a MOU that severely undercuts the previously Board approved Basin Plan amendment to prohibit land discharges of sewage in the Malibu civic center.

Despite a nearly five-hour hearing, and extensive testimony from Santa Monica Baykeeper, Surfrider Foundation, Malibu Surfing Assn., Heal the Bay and many others, the board only made trivial changes to the MOU.

Continue reading

Advertisements

No Poo at the ‘Bu

The septics prohibition - a major step towards cleaner water at Surfrider Beach

The septics prohibition - a major step towards cleaner water at Surfrider Beach & Lagoon. Photo: Jon Shafer

On Tuesday afternoon, the California State Water Board voted unanimously to support the Regional Water Board’s prohibition of on-site wastewater plants in the Malibu Civic Center area. Commercial facilities must be off septics by 2015 and residential sites must be off by 2019.

Opposition to the action was strong with Malibu’s City Attorney threatening litigation if the State Board upheld the prohibition. Malibu City Council members, local residents and the business community all opposed the prohibition citing cost concerns and Malibu’s new found commitment to Clean Water. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Victory at Sea

03beach-2-600

After 18 years of fighting for clean water, surfers in Malibu score a major win

The Regional Water Board voted 5-2 last night to approve a moratorium on septic systems in the Malibu civic center area.  In a bid to clean up chronically polluted Surfrider Beach, the measure bans any new septic systems in the area and mandates removal of existing systems by 2015 for commercial properties and 2019 for residential properties.  The environmental community — Baykeeper, Surfrider Foundation, Malibu Surfing Assn. and Heal the Bay — came out in large numbers to support a prohibition and moratorium for the civic center area.   It was a great organizing effort that involved all groups.

Continue reading

Cleaning Up the Stink in Malibu

200390363-001My kids are ages 16, 13 and 10.  Trying to get them to clean up the mess in their rooms is nearly impossible.  If I badger them continuously, promises will be made to tidy up.  Inevitably, these pledges are empty and rarely result in a clean room.  My experience with Malibu during its 18 years of cityhood is pretty similar: a horrible mess, an ungodly smell, and plenty of unfulfilled promises. 

On Thursday, the Regional Water Board will play the role of the parent that has had enough of a recalcitrant child.  Malibu, board members will say, it’s time to clean up your mess and get real about fixing long-standing water quality issues. And this time there are consequences — an immediate ban on new septic systems in the Malibu civic center area and a moratorium on all on-site wastewater treatment systems by 2014.

Continue reading

Mourning in Malibu

The late Dusty Peak: a true eco-warrior

The late Dusty Peak: a true eco-warrior

As president of Heal the Bay, I was lucky enough to work with Dusty Peak a lot over the years. Dusty, who passed away Aug. 17, was the personification of old Malibu.  He was a guy who worked and played hard — a consummate waterman. What impressed me most about Dusty was his passion for environmental protection. He realized that showing up at council meetings and hearings was not enough to protect coastal water quality and natural resources. When he showed up, he made sure that he was heard, always in his trademark loud boardshorts and sneaks. He was a guy you could count on, even for the most obscure and inconvenient hearings.   Continue reading

Purgatory in Paradise

Welcome_to_Paradise_Cove_Malibu_signLast Friday, the Regional Water Board finally held the long overdue enforcement hearing on the chronic pollution problems at Paradise Cove.  At stake was a $1.6 million fine. The Kissel Co., owner of the mobile home park at the cove, has been violating the Clean Water Act for over 15 years with numerous raw sewage spills and nearly complete disdain for a series of Regional Board compliance assurance actions. In addition, the beach at Paradise Cove consistently ranks as one of the most chronically polluted in the state of California, and often receives an “F” on our annual Beach Report Card.

Continue reading