Residents Raise Concerns over Lagoon 'Dewatering' Proposal
• Council Members Agree Plans Require Closer Scrutiny
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Malibu residents raised a number of concerns over a dewatering process for the proposed Malibu Lagoon construction project at the Malibu City Council meeting this week.
"I'm here to speak this evening about the 1.3 million gallons of treated water that is going to be entering the surf zone in regard to the Malibu Lagoon Restoration project," Malibu resident Wendi Warner told the council during public comment. "I am speaking about the narrow window of opportunity to ensure that beachgoers, swimmers and surfers will be protected during the Malibu Lagoon construction project, if it moves forward."
"I have completely lost confidence in the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the environmental organizations that are supposed to be responsible watchdogs for the public," Werner said.
"I have poured over hundreds of documents that obviously were not transparent to the public, in response to all of questions, and as I've been looking into these documents I've found that there are some serious questions raised by the City of Malibu," Warner said.
"The proposed water quality for the sampling is sorely lacking in bacterial analysis and the city also finds that the proposed filtration method, using carbon and resin vessels, will not disinfect. Using only chlorine for disinfection at the flow rate is not recommended.
"The proposed list of constituents for testing only included fecal coliform [bacteria], and all three fecal indicator bacteria must be monitored during the [dewatering] process," Werner said.
"I ask the city to seriously pursue new monitoring and the best available science."
"Last year, the bidders for this project pointed out that the dewatering plan was completely flawed," Werner stated. "[The project] completely ignored the real potential for bacteria to increase during the construction and post construction, especially between the dewatering discharge location and the surf zone. So, this project for the ocean could cause a serious public health hazard, and I'm asking the city to please make sure that this lagoon project is, if it does go forward, that you take a serious look at it."
Werner told the Malibu Surfside News after the meeting that the proposed dewatering mechanism described in the official project manual is one-tenth the size required to clean and disinfect the 1.3 million gallons of water that must be pumped out of the lagoon and into the ocean per day in order to enable the construction project to commence.
"According to the bidders, and they are the expert contractors that will be responsible for the actual work, it's 10 times smaller than it needs to be," Werner said. "As designed, it's only capable of handling 10 percent of the water.
"[Project spokesperson] Suzanne Goode hasn't addressed this. She keeps saying 'we can't dig the lagoon out with a spoon,' but they don't have a concrete plan for the dewatering."
Longtime Malibu resident Steve Dunn, who is Werner's husband, also had concerns about the dewatering portion of the lagoon project.
"I have had the pleasure of surfing in Malibu since 1962," Dunn told the Malibu City Council. "The process with which the [lagoon project] will discharge the water with no monitoring locations at the discharge site, sending levels of bacteria into the surf zone, will cause a public health hazard and possibly close the beaches and the surf zone."
"They propose discharging 1.3 million gallons per day on the sand and the beach," Dunn said. "The rate of discharge, as proposed, will inadequately disinfect the water before it is discharged into the surf zone. These organizations that receive public donations to be our environmental watchdogs are the ones in fact creating a public health hazard. In the long run, leaving the City of Malibu holding the bag."
"I think we are all concerned with that, and were in the beginning," said Councilmember John Sibert.
"The letter that the city sent said, 'the City of Malibu has strong concerns regarding the project's potential adverse impact on water quality,'" Sibert read.
"'We have developed and believe two specific areas need to be enhanced by additional permit conditions on the lagoon restoration project: bacterial indicator monitoring during construction and post construction and avian surveys pre-construction and post-construction.'"
"That was just part of the letter we did send to the Coastal Commission, because we had the same concerns that you did," Sibert said. "I think we can reiterate those concerns."
"I hate to do this, but I want to read from the same letter John was reading," said Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich. "It also clearly states based on the expertise and information provided to the city by the agency involved, the city is again voicing it's support of the project and the commissions' issuance of a permit to complete this project."
"The concerns were outlined after the support was given," Conley Ulich said. "Since that time—we're going to be working on it tonight-we had a meeting in April 2011 where we did have different scientists testify and there was ample opportunity to take your support and withdraw it and ask the governor to reconsider. I did that," Conley Ulich said, describing her trip to Sacramento, where she spoke with the governor's representative and told him about her concerns with the project.
"I think its time for the city to take a stand and either support the project on the record or oppose it, or ask for a reconsideration, instead of just trying to pick out the words that suit your case, let's look at the whole case."
"I would invite all of my colleagues on the city council to take action. It's not time to sit back and wait. The project is going to commence in June. The time to act is now."
"I wanted to also report that I was informed by Scott Valor of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission that I was appointed as an alternate of the City of Malibu I have been replaced by Laura Rosenthal. John Sibert, who is the vice chair, replaced me. Unfortunately I didn't get notice from John."
"I'm not the vice chair," Sibert said.
Sibert is described on the SMBRC website as a voting member of the governing board. He explained that he selected Rosenthal because Conley Ulich will be termed out of office in April. Sibert is running for reeliction.
"Well, you are on the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, decided to replace me with the alternate of Laura. I just found that out last week," Conley Ulich responded.