If regional water quality officials approve a proposed ban on septic systems in central Malibu as expected, residential property owners in the affected area would be on the hook for $1,000 a month to pay for a centralized wastewater treatment system, city officials said Monday.
Commercial property owners benefiting from the treatment system could be required to lay out significantly more, the city said.
Malibu said in a statement that such a system would cost $52 million, more than three times the $16.7-million projection that the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has suggested at recent community workshops.
Upset at what it calls Malibu's slow pace of correcting water pollution issues in Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon and at Surfrider Beach, the water board has proposed a prohibition on septic systems in the city's core.
Most commercial and residential properties in Malibu have septic systems, and the agency says pollutants leaching from aging and overtaxed systems are a big cause of the pollution. It plans to consider the issue at a Nov. 5 meeting in Simi Valley.
Tracy Egoscue, the water board's executive officer, said board members could not comment on Malibu's cost projections because they had not seen "the details and assumptions behind" them.
"Various alternatives are available for Malibu, including a centralized wastewater system that reclaims water for irrigation and other purposes," Egoscue said.
Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen said the city had been developing a treatment plan for an area that was much smaller than the area the water board eventually included in its "prohibition zone" map. In addition to municipal and commercial buildings in the Civic Center area, the zone includes many of the houses along Malibu Road and in Malibu Knolls and much of the Serra Retreat neighborhood.
"They've included a very large area that will require something much stronger," Thorsen said.
The city's consultants report that the operation and maintenance of such a treatment system would cost $420,000 a month. Assuming the water board's prohibition zone would include 400 to 500 land parcels, the costs would result in payments of about $1,000 per month per parcel, the city said.
"We are deeply concerned that the regional board has not completed its due diligence and has not considered the overwhelming monthly cost to local homeowners and landowners," Malibu Mayor Andy Stern said in a statement.
The city, which recently began construction on a storm water treatment facility, has asked the water board to put the proposed septic ban on hold while several ongoing studies are completed. The ban would immediately prohibit any new septic systems in the area and would give existing septic users five years to come into compliance.
Malibu residents have long balked at the idea of installing sewers, contending that keeping the city on septic tanks limits development.
For a map of the proposed prohibition area, go to the water board's website at http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb4/press_room/announcements/Public-Hearin g-Malibu/index.shtml.