City Council Delays Taking Action on Odoriferous Sewage Transfer Trucks
• Stance on Stench May Relate to Price Tag for Olfactory Option
BY BILL KOENEKER
Having agreed upon a successful strategy for dealing with the food trucks that began proliferating on Pacific Coast Highway, the Malibu City Council focused their attention last week on what to do about the pumper truck sewage transfers that take place along some of the same roadways.
Deputy Building Official Craig George, who said he was open to ideas, suggested the council need not take any action, that septic system pumping is necessary and that concerns expressed about spills are “unwarranted” since there have been no reported spills.
George said there was also concern expressed about the transfer of that sewage being done in the septic prohibition area in the Civic Center due to the potential for spills in the storm drains on Civic Center Way at Winter Canyon.
The deputy building official also told council members that the first course of action came from the city attorney’s office.
City Attorney Christi Hogin’s office drafted an ordinance regulating the transfer of septic material and prohibiting transfer on public streets.
Council members turned back such regulation when they were told the costs for pumping would skyrocket for homeowners because the septic material would have to be transported so far away outside of Malibu if it could not be transferred within city limits.
“I don’t support an ordinance at this time. I would like to see if the sewage could be taken to the Tapia plant or, as a long shot, to the proposed civic center plant,” said Councilmember Joan House.
“Let’s look at the Civic Center and see if we can convince [the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District at] Tapia to allow the transfer there. They have a big turnaround. I am not ready to ban transfers,” said Councilmember John Sibert.
George said the staff looked at other options. “The staff investigated the feasibility of transporting and treating septage at the Tapia Wastewater Treatment facility,” he said.
Tapia officials indicated that its existing infrastructure was not adequate and it would require Regional Water Quality Control Board approval to modify its water discharge report permit.
George said the city could explore whether odor control equipment should be mandatory.
Currently, according to George, pumper truck transfers are not prohibited in the city. The city’s code requires pumpers to provide the municipality with a list of all proposed authorized disposal sites.
The Local Coastal Program does not address pumper truck transfers, according to George, but does allow “wastewater storage and hauling” in the commercial general zones with a conditional use permit.
“Pumper truck transfers are of like and similar use to wastewater storage and hauling and, therefore could be allowed in the CG zone,” George wrote in his staff report. “There are a limited number of privately owned CG properties within the city. It is unlikely that the private property owners will allow this use on their property.”
Norm Haynie, who is the chair of the Wastewater Advisory Committee, said the issue for residents is the odor. He said odors could be controlled using filters on the trucks.
Initially, Councilmember Laura Rosenthal made a motion to “go with the proposed ordinance, not odor control,” but quickly withdrew her motion when she was reminded the ordinance would ban transfers and all pumper trucks would have to go the long distance to dispose of their contents. “I take it back,” she said.
The building official noted that it is necessary to pump septic systems on a regular and ongoing basis.
“Smaller pump trucks are utilized to pump individual septic systems and then the material is pumped into larger trucks for transport and disposal. These transfers have routinely occurred on Civic Center Way at Winter Canyon and on Pacific Coast Highway at Heathercliff Road.
“The concerns expressed over spills is unwarranted as there have been no observed spills during pumper truck transfers. Allowing pumper truck transfers within the city reduces the cost of onsite wastewater treatment system maintenance and traffic impacts on Pacific Coast Highway and in the canyons,” added George.