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$6.6-million settlement reached on Malibu beach water pollution

April 13, 2012 |  9:19 pm

Dan Blocker County Beach in Malibu

Malibu has reached a $6.6-million legal settlement with environmental groups that both sides say will protect beachgoers by reducing the amount of polluted storm runoff that reaches the ocean.

The settlement of a 2008 federal Clean Water Act lawsuit against the city by Santa Monica Baykeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council was approved Friday by a unanimous vote of the Malibu City Council during a special closed-session meeting.

The agreement requires Malibu to build rain-water harvesting, infiltration or treatment devices to catch storm water before it is released from 17 storm drains throughout the city. In all, the work will cost about $5.6 million, said City Atty. Christi Hogin, who noted that Malibu is already undertaking 11 of those projects.

The city also agreed to pay the environmental groups $750,000 in legal fees and set aside $250,000 to fund an ocean health assessment of Santa Monica Bay in collaboration with scientists at Cal State Northridge.

Water quality experts have long identified storm runoff -- the toxic soup that flows toward the ocean when it rains -- as the top source of water pollution at Southern California beaches and a key cause of swimmer illnesses.

“By curbing the biggest sources of pollution in the Santa Monica Bay, we can keep trips to Malibu beaches carefree, and prevent people from getting sick when they go in the ocean,” Steve Fleischli, the Natural Resources Defense Council's senior attorney, said in a statement.

Said Hogin: “The city is extraordinarily proud of its clean water record and we welcome the chance to settle with these plaintiffs and find ourselves all working on the same goals.”

Malibu's 21 miles of coastline draw about 13 million visitors a year.


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-- Tony Barboza

Photo: On the beach in Malibu. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times