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Al Martinez

They argue that a sewer system is another symbol of the urban calamity they are trying to escape. : Malibu and the Meanies

November 20, 1986|Al Martinez

There is a high, anguished whine coming from the golden shores of Malibu again, and it has nothing to do with the usual complaints of outsiders walking on their beaches or looking at their ocean or even, God help us, using their ocean.

This time it's about sewers.

Most of Malibu, you see, is possessed of septic tanks. A septic tank is a concrete box buried underground into which sewage flows from your house. The solid waste falls to the bottom of the box and is disposed of by bacterial action. The liquid waste seeps into the ground.

You say fine, no big deal, except it is also known that in some areas the effluents contaminate underground water and pollute the ocean, damaging both the fish and the blonde surfers with empty blue eyes who romp and play in the waves.

Los Angeles County, therefore, which feels it ought to occasionally regulate the people of Malibu, despite their radiant beauty, is making sounds again about instituting a regional sewer system that would eliminate those underground boxes along a 17-mile strip of the golden shoreline.

The current move is rooted in a 1983 storm during which God arbitrarily sent waves crashing against Malibu, wiping out 239 septic systems.

Those who were around in '83 might recall the killing stench that resulted therefrom. Ducks died in their ponds, starlings dropped from the sky, sophisticated stereo sound equipment ceased to function and the fuel-injection systems of Lamborghinis and Porsche Targas were clogged by odor pollution.

Nobody really minded the ducks dying and the starlings perishing in mid-tweet, but life without quadraphonic sound and high-speed cars is hardly worth living.

Fortunately, none of the Malibu residents themselves appeared to suffer ill effects since they are protected by psychological mind-set. They do not believe their sewage stinks.

But, alas, on an especially windy day, their deadly sewage cloud was blown into Sherman Oaks, muting a Valley Girl (her bubble gum solidified in her mouth and had to be surgically removed) and badly injuring two Mall Rats, who had to be equipped with mobile oxygen packs in order to continue shopping the Galleria.

Those over 55 with chronic respiratory problems or with incomes under $250,000 were warned to remain indoors during the 36 hours the Malibu Mist remained overhead.

Despite that near calamity, however, a good many people who live in Malibu and who believe septic tanks to be, well, funky, are vowing to fight anyone trying to deprive them of their gothic boxes.

It is their God-given right to do-do into a concrete box if they want to.

They are, however, not insensitive to the possibility of septic overflow and are therefore helping out by taking shorter and less frequent showers, by not flushing as often and by using the TV network or studio toilets for do-do whenever possible.

Meanwhile, they argue that a formal sewer system is just another symbol of the urban calamity they are trying to escape. Electricity and running water are apparently acceptable, but if the Malibu primitives had their way, they would still be digging holes in the backyard to satisfy their physiological needs.

Others contend that a sewer system is an invitation to builders to clog their shoreline and their hills with condos and hotels, thus destroying the unique high-trash look of the existing clutter along Pacific Coast Highway.

They may be right. Inadequate sewage disposal does limit big construction. Even so, four hotels are already being planned for Malibu, and it would not take much to turn the area into another Miami Beach, complete with rich old ladies with blue hair and old men with skinny legs who smoke big cigars and wear plaid Bermuda shorts.

I don't know how I stand on the issue, but I do know that I am no fan of septic tanks.

I live in a house that has a septic tank and is subject to overflow during storms, the only advantage of which is that it runs downhill into Malibu.

Unfortunately, however, the people who live in the houses higher than my house are doing to me what I do unto Malibu when things overflow and a smell of rotting fecal matter rides the sweet canyon breezes.

In addition to which, one cannot flush the toilet until the crisis passes, unless one is willing to risk a layer of foul-smelling scum on the bathroom floor.

As a consequence, I would be delighted to tie into a sewer system should they decide to put one in my canyon. If hotels and condos try to cash in on this and build uglies on the hillsides, I will join the fight against them.

I do not live in Malibu because I am not tall and blonde and do not have empty blue eyes. But if I were a Malibuian, I think I would opt for the sewage system and take all the other fights one round at a time.

They live on an ocean but they don't live on an island, and as long as their actions affect others, they have to adapt. That goes for their do-do too.

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