RWQCB Changes Meeting Venue
• July 14 MOU Hearing Has been Moved from Simi to Glendale
BY BILL KOENEKER
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has changed the venue to consider a resolution to authorize its executive officer to sign a memorandum of understanding between the City of Malibu and the Regional Board and the State Water Resources Control Board regarding implementation of a Civic Center septic ban at its meeting on July 14 at 9 a.m. to the city council chambers in the City of Glendale.
Two weeks ago, the majority of the Malibu City Council gave the green light to its city manager to sign the MOU that was put together by City Manager Jim Thorsen and the RWQCB's Executive Officer Sam Unger.
The purpose of the MOU is to coordinate between the two entities the implementation of installing a wastewater treatment plant in the Malibu Civic Center area.
The comments and responses to the MOU were recently released by the state agency and offered a glimpse of what many of the stakeholders' positions are on the issue.
The Malibu Bay Company, which still owns property in the Civic Center, indicated the MOU "represents a practical and well thought out approach to improve water quality in the Malibu Civic Center and Malibu Lagoon."
The Malibu Road Association indicated the MOU offers "an achievable solution that meets the financial, scientific and political needs for Malibu to move forward."
The president of the Homeowners Association of Vista Pacifico, a 17-unit complex expressed strong support for the MOU.
"Along with three other condo/townhome complexes, whereby together we comprise 191 units, our townhome complex has been connected to the county operated wastewater treatment plant at Vista Pacific and Civic Center Way for over thirty years, which we believe has helped mitigate contamination of our water and Malibu Lagoon. Our townhome owners paid for the operational costs of the plant and for the plant's expansion and upgrade in the early 2000's; however, we expect that the life-span of the plant will be coming to end by sometime after 2020, so it would make sense for us to tie-in into a new, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant in phase 11 as proposed by the tentative MOU."
Shopping center developer Steve Soboroff called the MOU "an agreement that is doable; a strict, tough, practical agreement."
However, environmental groups were not as pleased by the MOU, its terms and the process about how the document got to the public for review.
Heal the Bay complained environmental organizations had been excluded from the MOU negotiations.
"Arguably one of the most critical and complex water quality issues that our region has faced this decade is being rushed through the process in a completely nontransparent manner. This is unacceptable. If the Regional Water Board and Malibu truly wanted environmental group involvement in MOU negotiations, then we would have been allowed to review and negotiate draft MOU language."
Other remarks are highly critical of many aspects of the MOU and the Heal the Bay comments go on for pages about specific language in the MOU.
The Santa Monica Baykeeper charges the MOU "weakens the requirements and gives little accountability to the City of Malibu for ensuring that the water quality improves and directly contradicts the requirements of the Malibu septic prohibition."
"The fact the Regional Board was willing to voluntarily negotiate a less costly approach to water quality standards compliance was unprecedented and of great benefit to Malibu," the Baykeeper asserted.
"Legal arguments aside, the tentative MOU is unnecessary as an implementation framework. Consequently, we urge the LARWQCB to reject both the tentative MOU and the tentative resolution."
The Malibu Surfing Association indicated its members are still getting sick at Surfrider Beach and that the MOU "must build upon TM-1 with an understanding that compliance wil be difficult to achieve and prescribe penalties for noncompliance at levels which recognize this history."
The MSA also emphasized that if there is a no vote from the assessment district that the city of Malibu must implement and fund alternatives to a centralized plant.
Joan Lavine, who is suing the water boards over the septic prohibition , made pages of comments about the MOU, and her reasons for urging the board to reject it.
The Regional Board approved a septic ban for the Civic Center in 2009. The State Board adopted that same resolution in 2010.
The measure prohibits all new onsite wastewater discharge systems in the Civic Center area and prohibits discharge from existing OWSDs based on a phased schedule to cease discharges.
The prohibition, according to the RWQCB, does not prevent repairs, maintenance and upgrades to existing systems, provided they do not expand the capacity of the systems or increase flows of wastewater.
Malibu city officials initially objected to the adoption of the ban and expressed its intent to file a lawsuit challenging the septic ban.
In 2010, the city and the water boards entered into a tolling agreement by which they agreed to extend the time within which the city must bring an action against the water boards challenging their actions to approve the septic ban or what it calls the "Basin Plan Amendment."
The purpose of the tolling agreement was to afford both parties an opportunity to reach concurrence on a phased implementation, boundaries and other matters related to the septic ban.
The result of those discussions is the MOU to memorialize the agreement between the city and the water boards "that employs both a plan and schedule to construct one or more centralized wastewater treatment facilities in the Civic Center area."
A summary was provided by the Regional Board that notes the city agrees to construct one or more facilities, according to a specified schedule that contains specific milestones to assure completion of phase one by November 2015 and phase two by November 2019.
The city and the water boards agree that certain properties in the area designated as phase three may not be connected to a facility based on monitoring data to be collected by the city under the oversight of the Regional Board.
"If it is determined that the phase three properties must be connected to a facility, they must be connected by November 2025," the RWQCB resolution states.
If an assessment district is not approved by dischargers, the Los Angeles water board may enforce all state policies, plans, or regulations to gain compliance, including the requirement to upgrade each OWDS to advance treatment or other appropriate means by Nov 2019. "Advanced treatment for OWDS is defined as disinfection treatment to a level that meets applicable water quality standards for fecal indicator bacteria and or denitrification not to exceed a total nitrogen concentration of 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l) for those properties impacting an impaired water body with a nutrient total maximum daily loads or TMDL."
All property owners that are required to upgrade their system will need to obtain City of Malibu building permits and obtain an operating permit, in accordance with city ordinances
The city's operating permit program requires that advanced residential OWDS must be inspected every three years by a certified OWDS inspector.
The Los Angeles water board will also require effluent monitoring for these systems that shall be submitted and reviewed by the Los Angeles water board on a quarterly basis for total suspended solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus and fecal indicator bacteria as appropriate