Malibu's representatives to the state Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives took a stand last week against Los Angeles County's proposal for a regional sewage system that would cost more than $60 million, including a $38-million treatment plant at Corral Canyon.
State Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles) said the sewage system would be too costly for local property owners, who would pay assessments to finance construction and operation, and could lead to overdevelopment of Malibu, where large stretches of the coastal strip and the Santa Monica Mountains retain a rural flavor.
They registered their opposition at a forum attended by about 500 people at Malibu Park School on Oct. 9. The forum was sponsored by the Malibu Township Council, a civic organization that represents about 1,000 families. The Township Council is lobbying against the county proposal.
More than 80% of the waste water in Malibu's coastal terrace is treated in septic tanks. Six small, private sewage systems also operate there. Three times, in 1966, 1968 and 1971, residents have rejected sewer bond issues.
However, the county Health Department has declared that continued reliance on septic systems would be dangerous. That declaration allows the county to proceed with the project and tax property owners, despite their objections, as long as four of the five county supervisors approve it. The Board of Supervisors is expected to consider the matter in February.
Consultants from James M. Montgomery Engineers have estimated that assessments on individual property owners would range from $13,000 to $26,000 to finance the plant, pipes and hookups, while the average individual's share of the system's $1-million annual operating cost would be about $240 a year.
The Township Council has challenged those figures, contending that the fees would be far higher.
Supervisor Deane Dana, who represents Malibu, is backing the proposed sewage system. Dana's Malibu field deputy, Peter Ireland, read a statement at the forum repeating that support, citing the failure of more than 200 oceanfront septic systems after winter storms in 1983 and the subsequent closure of 12 miles of Malibu beaches for three months.
But Hayden told the crowd the county has a different reason for wanting sewers. "The county was never that concerned" about coliform bacteria, which indicates the presence of waste, in other Santa Monica Bay waters, he said. "Suddenly a minuscule amount becomes the pretext for a $60-million, $70-million project. This is not a concern about sewage, but what's going on is the promotion of development."
Hart said he has written of his opposition to county supervisors because "if this goes through, many people are going to lose their homes in this area" because of the high assessment. "And that's unacceptable," Hart said.
Carol Plotkin, an aide to Beilenson, said the congressman believes "it is doubtful that this . . . is either feasible or desirable. At best, it is premature."