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Residents Assail Sewer Proposal for Malibu

July 12, 1987|DAVID RISSER | Times Staff Writer

Malibu residents again have denounced a plan to build a $65.4-million sewer system, telling county officials that it costs too much and that they would rather keep their septic tanks.

Critics spoke during a meeting held by the county Department of Public Works on Wednesday to explain the addition of Las Flores/Rambla Pacifico, Carbon Mesa, Kellers Mesa and some properties between Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Road to the sewer plan.

The areas "have existing or potential earth instability problems," said Frank Grant, a engineer with James M. Montgomery Inc., consultants hired by the county to develop the plan. County officials say septic tanks contribute to the instability.

The first phase of the system, to be completed by 1991, would extend from Topanga Canyon to the west end of Malibu Road. A second phase to be built in 20 years would extend the system west past Trancas Canyon.

Residents would be assessed between $13,000 and $26,000 for their share of the system.

Individual assessments will be mailed to Malibu residents in late August or early September. Residents will receive their assessments before the Board of Supervisors makes a final decision on the plan, said Harry Stone, deputy county public works director.

The supervisors can approve the system without a referendum because the Board of Health declared septic systems in Malibu a health hazard in 1985.

Hundreds of angry residents who attended the raucous meeting at Malibu Park School say their septic systems are safe, that sewers will not stop landslides and that the costly system could cause great damage.

Opponents said they doubt the sewer system would be safe, pointing to the county's Hyperion treatment plant, which has spilled raw sewage into Santa Monica Bay. Under the plan, some Malibu sewage would go to the Hyperion plant and the rest would go to a plant to be built in Corral Canyon.

Sewage in Ocean

"Inevitably . . . raw sewage will wind up in the now-clean ocean waters and on the beaches of Malibu, just as it has in south Santa Monica Bay," the Malibu Township Council said in a statement.

The council also disputes the health-hazard ruling. Several Malibu doctors have said "there is no scientific basis" for the Board of Health's declaration, according to John Murdock, attorney for the council.

Murdock also faulted statistics on septic tank failures in Malibu, saying the county has "misused the element of time" by listing as current failures tanks that have not failed in 10 years.

If the county's statistics are used to justify the sewer system, "that will very definitely constitute a fraud upon the public," and a lawsuit to stop the system could be successful, Murdoch told a wildly cheering crowd.

The Township Council has set up a fund to finance a lawsuit against the county.

Residents Unconvinced

Many residents also remain unconvinced by assurances that construction will not significantly disrupt traffic on Pacific Coast Highway.

Supervisor Deane Dana, a major proponent of the plan, was harshly criticized. His field representative, Peter Ireland, was hissed and booed, and some residents demanded an explanation for Dana's absence from the meeting.

"Our enemy is Dana," declared Leon Cooper, president of the Malibu Township Council, to loud applause.

Speakers said Dana failed to understand the economic burdens the system would impose upon residents. Many residents would lose their homes due to the "crushing financial burdens" of the system, Cooper said.

"A lot of us will have to move out," said Ron Hayes, a tree surgeon who said he drives a pickup truck, a reference to Dana's recent complaint that Malibu residents refuse to pay for sewers because they drive "$20,000 Cadillacs."

Appeal From Big Rock

One resident of Big Rock, an area recently hit by landslides, said people there need a sewer system.

"Selfishly, I'd like to see a sewer," said Arthur James, a 17-year Malibu resident. "There are some people that do need help," he said.

But James asked that the county build sewers only in the most unstable areas, without forcing hundreds of households into a system they oppose.

Other Big Rock residents said an underground sewer system would be a disaster in areas with ground movement.

The county will accept written comments on the plan until July 23.

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