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Sewage Problem in Malibu

March 03, 1987

Septic tanks and piecemeal small sewer system packages are hardly long-term, permanent solutions to the problems confronting Malibu. It is unfortunate that Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) resorted to these outdated systems in his article (Editorial Pages, Feb. 18), "Malibu Sewer Plan Is a Case of Overkill."

The health and safety of Malibu residents make the "status quo" solutions put forward by Hayden shortsighted at best.

The winter storms of 1983 proved that when more than 200 beachfront sewage disposal systems failed, contaminating ocean waters and requiring "public health hazard" warning signs to be posted along 12 miles of Malibu beaches. The Big Rock area is still further proof that something must be done. Hundreds of millions of gallons of ground water, accumulated in no small part from residential water runoffs, triggered earth movement that endangered the area's nearly 300 homes.

Rising ground water levels and active or potential landslide conditions are also being experienced in other non-beachfront neighborhoods in Malibu. So much so that several neighborhoods have already had to form special districts to pump out ground water. Many other residential areas have had to place their water lines above ground, and a few have had to place both water and gas lines above ground.

All of these neighborhoods are relying on sewage disposal systems with seepage pits or leach fields.

Clearly, espousing the status quo is not a solution. Worse, it is an invitation to neglect that ultimately spreads the problem to all taxpayers in Los Angeles County. For that is where the money to pay for law suits such as those in the Big Rock area will come, from all the taxpayers.

Perhaps the politically expedient posture is to support the status quo. But time has already demonstrated such an approach is what created Malibu's problems. The only solution is a sewer system properly sized to meet current and limited future community needs; a future, I might add, shaped and approved by the California Coastal Commission.


Supervisor, Fourth District

Los Angeles County

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