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State water board outlaws septic systems in much of Malibu [Updated]

September 21, 2010 |  4:06 pm

Septic systems will be prohibited throughout much of Malibu after the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to ratify a recommendation by regional water quality officials that the coastal city be required to install its first central sewage treatment facility.

The 5-0 vote in Sacramento had been anticipated by environmental activists and surfers who contended that Malibu had for too long delayed solving the problem of tainted water in Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach. Last November, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board proposed a septic ban for about 550 businesses and residences in central and eastern Malibu.

Malibu officials had said the proposed zone was so large that the city could not devise a system capable of handling all of the waste water that would be produced. The city presented to the state board a modified plan covering fewer homes and businesses. In the end, the state water board backed the regional panel’s proposal.

However, in discussions before the vote, the city and the regional board vowed to continue to negotiate a possible reduction in the size of the zone. State board Chairman Charles R. Hoppin said he would contact both parties twice a month for the next few months as they work out specifics. Sam Unger, the regional board’s executive officer, said the panel’s plan had always anticipated some tinkering in response to additional scientific findings or data.

[Updated at 4:45 p.m.: Heal the Bay President Mark Gold said the move was long overdue. "We encourage Malibu to move forward with a clean water solution rather than pursuing the confrontational path of litigation. The state's action provides a future of "A" grades at Surfrider Beach."]

-- Martha Groves