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Westside Digest

Malibu : Suit Over Sewer Planned

January 19, 1989

The executive board of the Malibu Township Council voted unanimously Monday to sue Los Angeles County in an effort to block construction of a $43-million sewer system.

The lawsuit, which must be filed by Feb. 11, will allege that by approving the sewer plan last week, the Board of Supervisors imposed an unconstitutional tax on property owners. The typical Malibu homeowner would pay $9,900.

The suit will charge that the levy is "not fairly distributed" since about 70% of the system's cost will be paid by property owners outside of the Civic Center area, but only a small fraction of the sewer plant's capacity will be used by those owners, Township Council attorney John Murdock said in a recent interview.

In addition, the suit will charge that the county did not make a legally required "good faith" effort to analyze and reply to assertions by community-hired experts, who testified that septic tanks have caused no health hazard and are only a minor cause of landslides that have plagued the Malibu area.

"Everybody on the (township) council is angry and upset," said Leon Cooper, vice president of the 1,000-member council. "We feel we have been done a gross injustice."

Despite the protests of about 400 residents, the Board of Supervisors approved the Malibu sewer last Thursday, saying it was needed to solve a health problem created by overflows from septic tanks and to protect itself from landslide litigation.

The vote followed 22 years of bitter public debate, during which residents said a regional sewer would prompt unwanted growth while the county said a sewage facility was necessary to keep waste water out of creeks and the ocean.

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