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'Best and Cheapest' : Sewer Study Favors Plant in Canyon

February 27, 1986|JUDY PASTERNAK | Times Staff Writer

A $39-million sewage system that would include a treatment plant in Corral Canyon appears to be "the best and cheapest" way to dispose of waste in Malibu, according to Brian Scanlon, county sewer maintenance superintendent.

The Corral Canyon proposal is one of 13 options that have been considered by a consultant hired by the county to conduct a $1.2-million study of a controversial county plan to build a regional sewer system in Malibu.

The preliminary study is scheduled to be finished in mid-May. A few more alternatives remain to be examined, but consultants from James M. Montgomery Consulting Engineers Inc. have told county officials that the Corral Canyon proposal "looks like the best bet right now," Scanlon said.

Range of Costs

Costs of the proposals studied so far range from $18.5 million for continuing to rely on septic tanks and six small existing sewer plants, to $60 million for sending Malibu's waste through 40 miles of pipe to the Hyperion plant operated by the city of Los Angeles in El Segundo.

The lowest estimate of $18.5 million would cover repair and maintenance of the existing tanks and plants and the cost of building new septic tanks as more development occurs over the next 20 to 30 years.

Scanlon said that some kind of regional sewage system is needed and the least expensive one would be the proposed plant in Corral Canyon in western Malibu. A regional system is required, he said, to protect public health, accommodate future construction permitted under the nearly complete local coastal program and protect against landslides by keeping septic system water out of the soil.

The county expects to open a system that serves Malibu from its east end to Latigo Shores on the west by 1991. An expansion farther west to Point Dume would follow about 20 years later.

Owners of 3,500 lots in higher-density neighborhoods along a 25-mile strip of coastline would ultimately be affected.

The first phase, which is about two-thirds of the project, would include 4,700 residential units once development reaches the maximum allowed under the local coastal program. And 794 acres of commercial land also would be served by the sewers, Scanlon said.

The sewage issue is an emotional one in Malibu.

Critics have contended that sewers will lead to overdevelopment in the geologically unstable, environmentally sensitive region.

Cost Would Be Shared

They also resent being forced to pay for a system they do not want. Malibu landowners would be taxed to finance construction of the plant and pipes, hookups and operation of the system. The Corral Canyon option could cost an individual property owner between $8,500 and $22,000 for construction and hookup, Scanlon said.

Property owners also would have to pay a share of the annual $1-million operating cost, he said.

The residents already have been billed about $290 apiece for the study now under way.

With projected costs so high, "I'm disappointed the no-project option was never really addressed," said Joe Goodman, founder of the 200-member Malibu Alliance for Sensible Sewage Disposal. He was referring to the continued use of septic tanks. Goodman said he is worried that a Corral Canyon plant could damage the environment.

The Corral Canyon proposal includes a two-part pipeline, with 2.4 million gallons of sewage each day flowing west of Big Rock Mesa to the new plant and 300,000 gallons per day flowing east of Big Rock to the Hyperion plant in El Segundo.

The flow would be split to avoid placing sewage pipes under Pacific Coast Highway at Big Rock, a geologically unstable area where houses have suffered landslide damage and water mains under the road have broken.

Slide Areas Mapped

Goodman said he was concerned that other landslides and faults could lead to sewage spills.

"There's a lot of slide areas mapped and a lot of them will have a bearing on the sewer design. Big Rock is by far the largest and the most difficult to deal with," Scanlon said. He added that "there's no dispute as to the existence of a fault." But the consultant "feels that's a risk that can be worked around."

Treated waste from the new plant would be discharged into Corral Creek, which flows into the ocean at Corral Beach.

Goodman said that plan might cause pollution at the beach.

Said Scanlon: "Corral Creek basin is almost entirely uninhabited. There are no houses at that point . . . It's a rather narrow beach." The potential effects of a creek discharge on Corral Beach wildlife are still being detailed, he said.

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