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Lack of Sewer Imperils Carwash


A standoff over sewage between the cities of Glendale and La Canada Flintridge may force Marvin Berkman to shut down his family-owned carwash.

"Unless we can find another way to dispose of our waste water, we're out of business," said Berkman, who owns the carwash with his wife, Sheila. He said the business, which employs 35 people, is his family's only source of income.

Because La Canada Flintridge is largely without a sewer system, that city had asked Glendale to sell the rights to treat and dispose of 61,000 gallons per day of waste water through a system that it operates with Los Angeles. The new sewers would serve only a small commercial stretch of Foothill Boulevard bordering Glendale and including Berkman's Foothill Car Wash.

La Canada Flintridge agreed to pay $305,000 for the rights.

But Tuesday, the Glendale City Council voted 3 to 2 not to sell its sewage rights.

"This isn't, in my opinion, our problem," said Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, one of those voting against the sale. She said La Canada Flintridge residents, who have opposed citywide sewers, should not expect Glendale to provide help in one small area.

Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian, who also voted against the sale, agreed. "It seems unfortunate that one city's inability to plan for the future becomes another city's responsibility," he said.

Berkman told the Glendale council that he purchased the carwash 15 years ago with permission to dispose of waste water through the storm drains. Since then, environmental regulations have become more stringent, preventing him from continuing the practice. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has ordered the carwash to stop dumping waste water down storm drains by June 1.

The business recycles 85% of its water. But without the sewer connection, the carwash has no way to dispose of the remaining water.

Glendale Councilman Jerold Milner said Glendale should not surrender even a small portion of its sewer rights at a time when it is considering dramatic zoning changes and building slowdowns to curtail the city's growth. Selling sewer capacity would run counter to the argument that the city must curb growth because its streets and sewers can only accommodate a limited number of new residents, he said.

Councilmen Carl Raggio and Richard Jutras voted in favor of granting the sewer rights, saying the amount needed by the carwash and adjacent businesses was not significant.

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