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Water District Fined for Discharge to Creek

October 28, 1998

In an ongoing dispute that may lead to penalties of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District has been fined for illegally discharging treated water into Malibu Creek, state officials said.

Already facing a bill of more than $70,000 for releasing into the creek 19.2 million gallons of treated water from its Tapia Plant during September, district officials said this week they would unavoidably commit even greater violations, because of what they call unfair state restrictions.

Expecting more fines, district officials said they will appeal the penalties and argue for looser restrictions at a California Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting scheduled for Dec. 14.

The plant's permit, approved by the state board in April, prohibits treated water from entering the creek from May to November of every year to protect endangered species in the Malibu Lagoon and limit the levels of human waste entering the ocean, state officials said.

It requires the Las Virgenes district--which processes sewage from residents of the San Fernando Valley's western edge--to offer its highly treated water during that period to government and private agencies for use in irrigating parks, schools, golf courses and landfills.

District officials complain that complying with the new restrictions is sometimes impossible--particularly in cool fall weather, when there is little demand for irrigation water.

"We're trying, we're really trying," said Norm Buehring, director of resource conservation for the Las Virgenes district.

Handling roughly 10 million gallons per day with limited reservoir capacity, the district's storage capacity can be overwhelmed by the volume of water it treats when its customers don't want it, Buehring said.

The number of residents whose sewage the district treats has grown since 1988 by 10,000 to roughly 64,000, district officials said.

"We're trying to use what storage we have and have even tried to offer no-cost water to public agencies to limit the number of days it would have to go into the creek," Buehring said.

But, when the weather gets cold, "nobody is interested," Buehring said.

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