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Hundreds pack hearing on Malibu septic tanks

November 5, 2009 |  4:39 pm

Hundreds jammed the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District headquarters today as board members prepared to decide whether to ban septic tanks in much of Malibu.

The decision is both meaningful and potentially expensive.

Residents in the affected areas would be required to pay about $500 a month to cover the cost of hooking into a central sewage system, according to the city’s projections. Businesses would face payments of about $20,000 a month for enterprises producing 25,000 gallons of wastewater per day or about $7,000 for those producing 10,000 gallons per day.

Proponents insist that the septic systems are Third World-like devices and a major source of pollution in Malibu’s watershed.

Nancy Hastings, a field coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, which supports the moratorium, said the public "has a right to have clean, safe water to recreate in."

"This pollution problem is more than two decades long," said Hastings, adding that she surfs every Sunday at famed Surfrider Beach, often exposing herself to toxins.

The most graphic testimony came from surfer Ken Seino, a member of the Malibu Surfing Assn., who flashed a scar on his upper-left chest where he had a pacemaker implanted. That was necessary, he said, because of the viral myocarditis he contracted after inadvertently paddling through raw sewage at Surfrider Beach in August 1997.

"I smelled it, I tasted it and it was ugly," he said. "I regurgitated before I could paddle to the sand."

The next day, he said, he awoke with a temperature of 103 degrees and was ill for three weeks. Later, after developing inflammation of his heart muscle, he had the pacemaker put in. Four of his surfing friends have had the same operation, he said.

Even with the pacemaker, he said, "I will die before my time because of this infection."

The testimony is expected to last until early evening before the water board votes on whether to ban septic tanks and force those who already use them to phase out the devices.

—Martha Groves