The county Department of Public Works has recommended a creek discharge to dispose of treated effluent from a 300-room hotel and commercial project proposed in the hills above Malibu.
The discharge proposal moved the controversial Rancho Malibu Mesa project one step closer to obtaining a conditional-use permit from the county Regional Planning Commission. The commission has been reluctant to approve the project until the developer, the Adamson Cos., found a safe way to dispose of the sewage water that the complex would produce.
Adamson intends to share Pepperdine University's sewage treatment plant, which the university wants to expand to accommodate its own growth plans. The development company has agreed to pay more than $5 million toward the cost of the estimated $6-million plant expansion in exchange for the plant processing up to 72,000 gallons a day of its waste water.
Must Obtain Approval
Adamson and the university must each propose and obtain commission approval of a waste disposal method. Andrew K. Benton, Pepperdine's assistant vice president, said he liked the creek-discharge proposal. He said that option has not yet been offered to the university but he regarded it as a "plausible solution" to Pepperdine's problem.
The public works department last month turned down the school's proposal to spray the treated effluent on scattered fields around the campus, a method known as spray irrigation.
Brian Scanlon, county sewer maintenance superintendent for the public works department, said that the plan did not guarantee that the sewage water would not seep into the ground and aggravate a landslide on Malibu Road, an expensive neighborhood of beachfront homes directly south of the campus.
Scanlon told the commission at a meeting Wednesday that two alternatives to spray irrigation are to discharge the water at a point upstream in Malibu Creek, a method currently used by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, or to connect to a regional sewer system, which Malibu does not yet have. A creek discharge, Scanlon said, was "the most feasible alternative."
He said he had "no objection" to the commission issuing Adamson a development permit as long the creek discharge is approved and Pepperdine's sewage treatment plant is expanded before hotel construction begins.
Benton said the discharge plan would be less expensive than spray irrigation.
Madelyn Glickfeld, land-use expert for the Malibu Township Council, expressed strong concern about the consequences of discharging treated sewage into Malibu Creek. The creek feeds into Malibu Lagoon, which has been the subject of pollution complaints from swimmers and surfers for the past several years.
"I would like to see an environmental impact report assessing the impact of a higher volume discharge in the creek on Malibu Lagoon," Glickfeld said. "We should be very careful in deciding what to do with Malibu Creek."
Sarah Dixon, also representing the Township Council, said further discharge of sewage water into the creek could have a "broad impact" on public health.
The state Department of Parks and Recreation plans to post the lagoon as unsafe for swimming and has called for regular monitoring of water quality.
Benton said that a creek discharge would not endanger public health.