In a symbolic photo op for an already expensive project, Malibu broke ground on the Civic Center Wastewater Treatment Facility using golden shovels at Winter Canyon on Wednesday morning, June 29.

“Today we’re beginning construction on Malibu’s largest infrastructure project in its short history,” Mayor Laura Rosenthal said. “But it’s really more than that — it’s a true turning point and the culmination of a story that started decades ago.”

The groundbreaking signifies the beginning of construction of Phase 1 of the extensive project, which is estimated to cost Civic Center landowners, including the city, $47 million dollars. The concept of building a large-scale wastewater facility to replace septic tanks has met resistance among Malibu residents since the idea was first proposed in 2011, but the district most affected by Phase 1 has shown approval.

“This year, the assessment district passed with 98 percent of the vote, clearly demonstrating that the stakeholders are squarely behind this project,” Rosenthal said. 

Phase 1 primarily affects businesses in the Malibu Civic Center, but not all “stakeholders” are businesses. 

“We always refer to people as ‘stakeholders.’ Today, what I see [are] people who are proud of being able to celebrate clean water, moving forward in a positive way,” Regional Water Quality Control Board Member Francine Diamond said. “It’s a wonderful story of public servants, and the public working together for common goals for the future.”

Malibu’s public wasn’t always so eager to work with its public servants. Rosenthal’s speech included a short history about the City of Malibu and described how its resistance to the sewer project predates Malibu’s cityhood. 

The original fight was against overdevelopment of the city. In 2009, after the Regional Water Quality Control Board implemented a ban on Malibu Civic Center’s septic tanks, the sewer became an environmental issue. As Malibu became more focused on protecting the environment, the wastewater facility became more of a reality.

“Fortunately, things have changed in Malibu, and Malibu has gone from having a bad reputation as a beach polluter to being recognized as an environmental leader, committed to protecting the ocean, beaches, water, and our community and the 15 million people who come here to visit regularly,” Rosenthal said. 

Once constructed, the facility is meant to provide Malibu with 70 million gallons of recycled water per year. This recycled water can be used for irrigation or other landscaping needs but cannot be used as drinking water.

From June 2015 to June 2016, the 22,175 residents of District 29 — which serves customers in Malibu and Topanga — used 2.15 billion gallons of potable water. Malibu has an estimated population of 13,000.

“We can’t afford to use our drinking water once and then throw it away without making beneficial use of it,” Associate Water Director of the Environmental Protection Agency John Kemmerer said, going on to say that water recycling infrastructure programs have been developed across California.

In fiscal year 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency provided more than $178 million for state-revolving loan projects. In total, the EPA has contributed over $4.7 billion toward water infrastructure projects in California. 

Kemmerer commended Malibu’s facility for incorporating recycled water usage and reiterated that California was in the fifth year of a historic drought. 

Malibu’s District 29 was recently removed from the phased water conservation plans by the Los Angeles County Waterworks Board of Advisors due to consistent water conservation efforts by residents proving that mandated conservation was unnecessary.  The wastewater treatment facility’s effectiveness could be expanded through further developments.

“The fact that we’ve learned now how to meet and talk will make it a lot easier. I want to remind you this is Phase 1. There is a Phase 2 and — guess what? — there is a Phase 3,” Vice Chair of State Water Resources Control Board Frances Spivy-Weber said. 

Despite Spivy-Weber’s comment, City Manager Reva Feldman has said Phase 3 will only occur depending on the outcome of Phases 1 and 2. 

The first phase of the facility’s construction is expected to be completed by November 2017.

(12) comments

Dani Sue

See 'water cycle'. You've been drinking treated sewage your entire life.
With a mere 5% of our water being potable why do you insist on depositing the trained without treating it? We have the science to do better.
Thought of the day from Jonas Salk
'Eventually we'll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.'

Lois Lyons

Have a nice glass of treated sewage. You'll feel better.

Steve Woods

On the bright side, Malibu can decrease the strain on state water supplies by using recycled water during drought years instead of flushing millions of gallons of untreated waste water into our subterranean floodplain .

Andy Choka

How things change. If you asked Laura Rosenthal or most of the council today it is a great idea they came up with. From a Malibu Times article dated 8/15/2012
"Each council member, along with Hogin, said they believe the Civic Center is not polluting the ocean, but city officials appear to want to avoid legal troubles by following the MOU with the state."

Sarah Dixom

Goodbye semi-rural small and beautiful Malibu. Goodbye nature Hello commerce! General Plan? What General Plan? Never mind. Greed wins. We lose what made our place on the planet special.

Thomas Smith

Reading the comments below one can only muse of what will Man-kind invade and destroy next? Seeing the oxygen producing plants being destroyed by the land moving machines, the dust polluting the air that once was clean. The ignorance that has permeated our little City by the Elected flocking to praise something that never should of been in the first place! SHAME ON THEM, they are the definition of Hypocrites!

Dani Sue

The sad part is that Malibu has reached the tipping point in relation to the sustainability of our natural capital.
How many of those that are complaining about the sewer system have waded or swam in the foamy muck that all too often engulfs our shoreline? You sit in your homes or on your lanais when our kids are surfing in some sort of purple foamy muck that authorities don't warn us of until days or weeks past the incident.
Malibu has also crossed the line of being an exclusive hideaway, you can't put that genie back in the bottle.

Steve Woods

Sad but true, the center of Malibu is no longer a sparsely populated rural area and no can longer absorb the present day emissions of millions of gallons of Human Waste and toxic household cleaning products being flushed into the high groundwater water table of the Civic Center flood plain and its hydraulics leading to the creek , lagoon,surfers and ocean creatures . The Regional Water Board mandated its powerful jurisdiction over Malibu . Done deal ,, Sewers means cleaner water and less groundwater pollution ,but it also means developers can exploit the situation . Everyone can complain about spilled milk but the reality is that it is past the point of no return , so the challenge is to fight unwanted development by any means necessary . Developers must know that any development will be fought and boycotted and become a money losing investment . There is already a vast historic glut of empty existing commercial spaces and according to this weeks NY Times , more and more Brick and Mortar retail stores are giving way to Online sales . And more businesses are about to fold , Urban Outfitters will be one of the next victims and look to Ralph Lauren to fold also . These developers and investors need to know that Malibu is the last place on the planet to build a new shopping mall outlet . We will boycott and they will fail to get a successful return on their investment dollar . Investors would be wise to look around at the glut of Jay Luchs lease signs, cut their losses and give up and go back where they came from . Shops without tenets are a waste, so do not waste your time and money building outlets that we do not need or want

J. Flora-Katz

According to City records and MT's -"Councilmember Skylar Peak cast the lone vote against the resolution." So why is his face used in this story? He's the only one who voted FOR Malibu.

J. Flora-Katz

What a sad, sorry, betrayal of Malibu. No wonder they all have their faces hidden. They should.

Andy Choka

Mayor Laura Rosenthal said. “But it’s really more than that — it’s a true turning point and the culmination of a story that started decades ago.” It sure is . The developers won . This is not about clean water since all the studies show that the ground water is not being polluted . This is about the developers being able to build on a high water table and nopt have to worry about their septics backing up. Watch the development explode.

" I want to remind you this is Phase 1. There is a Phase 2 and — guess what? — there is a Phase 3,” Vice Chair of State Water Resources Control Board Frances Spivy-Weber said. " Guess who is going to pay and pay big. Only a few homes in Serra Canyon are even remotely close to Malibu Creek, Malibu Knolls are over a mile away and no one has ever proven the Colony is polluting with the new type of septic systems. The development boys won again and the city was complicit.

Next you will see the city council rezone for condos under the guise of "mixed use". Unless you vote in a new council in November this WILL happen and you can bend over.

Thomas Smith

The only word that I can think of to express is this is utterly DISGUSTING!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.