New water treatment site ‘puts Malibu ahead of the curve’

PHOTO: Alex Vejar/ 22nd Century Media

PHOTO: Alex Vejar/ 22nd Century Media

After years of work, the City of Malibu finally broke ground on its new wastewater treatment facility on Thursday, June 29. 

Members of the Malibu City Council, as well as representatives from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Quality Control Board, shoveled a pile of earth to mark the occasion. 

Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal and others spoke in celebration on the treatment plant and Malibu’s continued commitment to environmental responsibility. 

“Today, with this project, we mark another major achievement in Malibu’s environmental mission,” Rosenthal said. “This facility will enable Malibu to protect the natural environment that we all cherish and take visitor-serving properties off of our septic systems.” 

Rosenthal said the treatment plant will provide about 70 million gallons of water every year for reuse throughout Malibu. 

“This facility puts Malibu ahead of the curve,” Rosenthal said when speaking about California’s fight against the current drought. 

The project will have three phases; the building of the facility is Phase 1. Rob Duboux, assistant public works director for the City of Malibu, said the first phase will take at least 18 months to complete and cost about $45 million of the approximately $60 million budgeted for all three phases. 

Duboux said in addition to the facility’s construction, Phase 1 also consists of installing pipeline and pump stations to convey wastewater into the plant. Three injection wells that will send the treated water to the property owners in the Civic Center area will also be installed on Malibu Road, he said. 

“Let’s celebrate what we have here in front of us, but let’s also start working really hard to make sure that Phase 2 and Phase 3 are not as difficult as this one has been,” said Fran Spivy Webber, vice chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board. 

An assessment district to fund the treatment facility was approved by the City Council in January, in what Rosenthal at the time called a “historic” vote. The formation of the assessment district was the result of a mandate from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board that banned septic systems in the Malibu Civic Center Area.

Citing water pollution in Malibu Lagoon and areas nearby, the regional board determined that polluted wastewater was seeping into the environment from septic systems. It banned those systems in 2009.

In 2011, the City entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the Regional Board. In that memo, a provision stated that the Regional Board would not enforce its ban in Malibu if the City constructed a wastewater treatment plant and connected affected properties by certain target dates. That situation appears to be in the works.  

“It took a lot of hard work by a lot of people to get us here,” Rosenthal said.