You may have recently heard that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to put in place new regulations that directly and significantly impacts Las Virgenes Municipal Water District customers. In short, the EPA wants LVMWD to clean water that is considered dirty and may impact wildlife where the water ultimately ends up.
If it happens, the proposed EPA regulations are projected to cost each water district customer about $4200 (more for larger customers). If paid through bi-monthly bills, the average resident will pay $41 more on each bill for 30 years. Read on to understand, and to find out how you can give feedback.
Details and How to Give Feedback
Currently, the water in Malibu Creek is “brackish” (very salty) and it’s a burden on the wildlife particularly in the water. On the surface, cleaning the dirty water sounds like a laudable goal and it may very well be. The issue, however, is that the water is “dirty” not caused by LVMWD, but instead is due to the nature of the soil in the area, runoff from streets and open space, animals and other factors that have nothing to do with the water district. That said, the EPA may be focusing on LVMWD because it’s an easy single source to pursue — there’s no other single entity that can be pursued.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told Westlake Revelations “EPA has conducted an extensive assessment of near 20 years of data and determined that Malibu Creek watershed still has water quality impairments that need to be addressed. EPA’s review of the data shows that there are many contributing sources to the impairment, and LVMWD is one of the many. EPA has been in discussion with all the major stakeholders on this TMDL, including LVMWD. The agency is working with them to determine how best to include needed modifications that can address stakeholder concerns and still protect the watershed’s highly valuable water and habitat quality.” For more information on the Malibu TMDL, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/tmdl/progress.html
To do what the EPA wants will require massive expenditures by LVMWD. To put it in perspective, LVMWD’s new General Manager, David Pedersen, estimates that if the new regulations are put fully into place, it will cost each LVMWD customer $4200 if assessed over a relatively short period of time. And, if the District instead finances with debt, Pedersen estimates a cost of $41 on each bi-monthly bill for 30 years.
The issue is that at the bottom layer of the creek, are “Benthic Macroinvertebrates” (BMI) — a category of organisms without backbones, which are visible to the naked eye. A healthy creek has the right amount, and right variety of these “critters”. The EPA believes that there are not enough, and a good enough variety due to excessive nutrients in the water. Due to all the run off, septic systems, equestrian output, etc… the baseline nutrient level is as high as that coming from LVMWD’s treatment facilities.
David Pedersen, the new General Manager for LVMWD told us more. “While the EPA has scientifically investigated the cause for low BMI population and variety, their investigations have been focused on nutrients and been dismissive of the many other important factors. Those nutrients are naturally higher in any treated water, but in our area, the baseline water (before any treated water is even involved) has a higher level of nutrients from a wide variety of causes. Furthermore, BMI levels are affected by the brackish water (i.e., salty) which are not thoroughly explored in the EPA study and are at least as important as the nutrient level and probably a great deal more.”
LVMWD and Triunfo Sanitation District (together called the JPA) has a number of additional concerns with the EPA’s proposal including:
* there’s inadequate evidence about JPA’s role
* the EPA has rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline without appropriate
feedback from the agencies, Cities, and populations affected.
* Similar efforts were made in 2003, but didn’t demonstrate any water quality improvements.
* the EPA’s efforts and rush to implement are inconsistent with the state’s environment efforts.
More perspective: In 1964, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was established between Las Virgenes and Triunfo Sanitation Districts to cooperatively treat wastewater for these two bordering areas, which share the Malibu Creek watershed. The JPA’s total assets are currently valued at approximately $102 million and consist primarily of plant and equipment that was built over nearly 50 years of operation. If approved, the proposed EPA regulation would require the JPA to construct more than 1.5 times its current assets, costing $160 million, in a matter of a few years.
While this is not in the District’s hands, including the Board of Directors, LVMWD is looking to challenge the EPA’s new policy — but it will cost ratepayers for the District even just to challenge this. More than likely, LVMWD will need the help of the community to make the impact that it needs. Several of the cities, and other local groups have written letters to the EPA — but voters are who vote people into office.
If you would like to voice your opinion, you are encouraged to reach out, now, to:
Mr. Jared Blumenfeld
Regional Administrator, Region 9
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Hon. Julia Brownley
U.S. House of Representatives
233 East Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Suite 470
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362
Hon. Henry Waxman
U.S. House of Representatives
8436 West Third Street, Suite 600
Los Angeles, CA 90048
and feel free to cc Westlake Revelations (firstname.lastname@example.org) or other media sources.
You can also reach out to LVMWD for additional information. http://www.lvmwd.com