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City Plans New Sewer System : Waste: Proposed lines could provide service to more than 6,000 households. Business owners say hookup would cost too much.

July 29, 1993|DIANA S. KIM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — After more than 30 years of debate, La Canada Flintridge's first major sewer lines are finally on the drawing board this month to both the satisfaction and distress of local home and business owners.

Some say they need the lines, but others do not like the price tag that will go along with hooking them up.

One trunk of the $4-million project would measure 10,000 feet and run along the Foothill Boulevard business strip. The other, also 10,000 feet, would stretch from the La Canada Country Club to Oak Grove Drive. The lines would have the capacity to serve 65% of the city.

Of the 6,700 households in the city, only about 500 homes near La Canada Country Club and a few more along the Glendale border are hooked up to sewer lines.

Aging septic tanks and the growing number of complaints about failing tanks and their odors led to the sewer debate, which is about 15 years older than the city itself.

City Council members--who also serve as directors of the city's two small sanitation districts--entered into an agreement three years ago with neighboring Pasadena to split the costs on a project to repair a main line that connects the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to a Los Angeles County line.

The lines proposed in La Canada Flintridge would merge into the main line shared by the two cities at Oak Grove Drive.

"La Canada Flintridge is one of the few communities within the greater Los Angeles region which is almost fully developed, yet still primarily relies on septic systems for sewage disposal," a 1992 report compiled by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County stated.

"Along the Foothill Boulevard commercial corridor, numerous complaints and failures are received and verified annually by the Glendale Health Center," the report said.

"Reports of residential septic system failures and unpermitted discharges from illegal hookups and surface disposal of gray water are also received on a regular basis, averaging one to two complaints per week, and increasing during rainy weather."

The report cites examples of septic system failures at shopping centers, grocery stores, restaurants, the local YMCA and La Canada High School.

The Glendale Health Center, citing "emergency situations," shut five restaurants along Foothill Boulevard in the last two years, said Wynsor Kawamoto, center environmental health specialist.

Sewage discharges on surface grounds are considered emergency situations.

Sewage around waterlines pose a threat to drinking-water supplies, Kawamoto said. Ground water near the surface can also cause septic-tank effluent to come into contact with waterlines.

"Under these conditions, should the water system develop a leak and a pressure drop suddenly occur, sewage could then contaminate the main line supplying water to La Canada Flintridge residents," the report said.

It also means that people could come into direct contact with raw sewage and waste water that has been exposed to insects, rodents, pets and other carriers of communicable diseases, said Dr. Al Solish, a physician who lives in La Canada Flintridge. Solish, a member of a citizens' sewer advisory committee formed last year, is strongly in favor of the proposal for the new sewer lines.

"It was the most quick, and cheap, way to put lines in the city," he said.

But the projected cost is not cheap enough for several businesses along Foothill Boulevard and some residents. In fact, only a bare majority of those who live and work in the city wants to hook up to the system, according to City Manager Gabrielle G. Pryor.

"We're not receptive to it at all," said Paul McDaniel, manager at The Barkley restaurant. "Restaurants are being hit harder than any other businesses. We signed a petition against it. We wouldn't mind changing over as long as we don't have to pay that humongous sum."

That sum, McDaniel said, is the $35,000 hookup fee payable over 20 years, plus other unspecified costs the restaurant will incur. As presently envisioned, sewer hookup will be voluntary.

Given that the restaurant doesn't make $35,000 profit in a year, McDaniel said the owner will be content to continue to pump out the restaurant septic tank twice a year, at a total cost of $3,000.

But others, like Dennis Croxen, general director of the YMCA, which has had some seepage problems, are supportive of the sewer project. The YMCA's one-time hookup fee would be about $87,000.

Sewer lines "are really the ultimate solution to the problem in the city," he said.

Still, some residents, like Andy Becwar, who is also on the sewer advisory committee, argue that a line along Berkshire Avenue instead of Foothill Boulevard would serve a greater number of residents.

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