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Opposed in Malibu : Sewer Plant Expansion Approved

February 16, 1989|BOB POOL | Times Staff Writer

A plan to double the capacity of a Calabasas sewage plant to handle a coming population explosion between Woodland Hills and Thousand Oaks has been approved--despite the objections of Malibu residents living downstream.

The capacity of the Tapia Sewage Treatment Plant will be boosted from its existing level of 8 million gallons per day to 16 million gallons under a plan endorsed unanimously Monday night by directors of the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District.

Officials said they hope to finish the $50-million expansion by 1992--when as many as 15,000 new homes will either be completed or under construction in Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Agoura and Calabasas.

The sewage plant now serves about 20,000 homes and businesses in the 120-square-mile area. Fees on developers of $2,800 per new home will pay for the project.

The newly approved plan is the fourth expansion of the 23-year-old plant at the northern end of Malibu Canyon, and officials said it is expected to be the final one.

Exclusive Area

Residents of an exclusive area at the canyon's mouth--as they have each time the Tapia plant has expanded--have protested the newest enlargement.

Malibu residents charged two weeks ago that treated effluent released by the plant into Malibu Creek possibly contains dangerous levels of germs.

They said two research scientists at a Malibu Township Council seminar last month said present methods of testing waste water for cleanliness do not reveal some pathogenic organisms.

As a result, residents charged, some bacteria and viruses that could be dangerous to humans may be escaping undetected from the plant to contaminate Malibu Lagoon and the nearby Malibu Colony movie star enclave.

Those suggestions were dismissed Monday by a Las Virgenes consultant. In a report to officials, consultant Will Stokes said one of the scientists later maintained that her comments were taken out of context.

Stokes, a former general manager of the Las Virgenes district, said testing methods are more than adequate to detect bacterial pathogens at safety levels established by state health officials.

Monday's 5-0 approval by Las Virgenes officials of the plant's expansion followed a similar Feb. 6 endorsement by the Ventura County-based Triunfo County Sanitation District. That agency provides sewer service to the southeastern edge of Ventura County and owns a third of the 70-acre Tapia plant.

Las Virgenes district spokeswoman Diane Eaton said Tuesday that the Tapia plant, which handles 7 million gallons of raw sewage a day, is approaching its capacity of 8 million gallons. An $11-million expansion project to increase the plant's daily capacity to 10 million gallons will be completed in May.

The final expansion to 16 million gallons will involve about 18 months of construction, Eaton said.

The new work will be confined to 15 acres already in use at the Tapia plant. Space for the new equipment will be made available by moving some sludge-handling equipment to a separate site, she said.

Monday's action clears the way for the district to solicit design bids for the expansion, officials said. Before construction can begin, approval must be granted by the state's Regional Water Quality Control Board, the state Coastal Commission and the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission.

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