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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Council Allocates More Dollars for Water Quality Research Projects

• Work to Have Direct Affect on Wastewater Facility

BY BILL KOENEKER 

In a continued effort to pump manpower and money into the ongoing research for water quality studies in the Civic Center, the Malibu City Council this week, without comment, approved spending more dollars for the ongoing studies.
In good news for municipal officials, the U. S. Geological Survey announced it is prepared to apply unspent federal funds of $40,000 in matching funds to continue its ongoing research.
A team of scientists from the USGS conducted water quality research through 2009 and 2010 to determine the source of bacteria and nutrients in Malibu Creek, the lagoon and near shore at Surfrider Beach and in front of the Malibu Colony.
“These research projects also provided a better understanding of the occurrence, distribution and sources of pathogens in shallow groundwater. This information is very important for multiple reasons, including but not limited to the city’s effort to ensure that its clean water program specifically addresses the actual source of bacteria or nutrients and protects human health, as well as natural resources,” wrote City Manager Jim Thorsen, in a memo to council members.
Thorsen added the use of the information can be used for total maximum daily load or TMDL standards as well as in the more recent battle the city has had over the Regional Water Quality Control Board septic ban in the Civic Center.
Last year, the city spent $150,000 to fund sample water collecting for the USGS study alone.
The USGS funding of $40,000 can be used to allow “for additional analysis of data collected as part of the study…and additional interpretive products and presentation of results at technical and scientific meetings.”
Also on tap, the council agreed to award a total of $80,000 to continue groundwater elevation monitoring to Stone Environmental, Inc. in the Civic Center for one year and for consulting services related to the RWQCB Civic Center septic ban.
The additional appropriation is to continue groundwater elevation monitoring in downtown Malibu.
About $50,000 is for the groundwater studies and $30,000 is for consulting work on the septic prohibition
“The cost of the monitoring program is anticipated to be reimbursed by contributions by individual Civic Center commercial property owners,” added Thorsen.
The city manager insists groundwater elevation monitoring is crucial for the city in the “understanding of the long-term groundwater regime in the Civic Center area and in the development of dispersal and reuse strategies for the proposed Civic Center wastewater recycling facility.”
Thorsen goes on to state it is imperative that the city maintain long-term data pertaining to the groundwater elevation because data gaps that may occur without the continuation of the monitoring may allow for scientific uncertainty due to assumptions that must be made when data is unavailable.
The city manager goes on to say it is also important to continue the monitoring due to the rainfall events that have occurred this rainy season. The large amount of rain experienced in December 2010 and the recent major storms provide large fluxes on the influence of storm water on the groundwater levels. It is important to measure these fluxes over time to better comprehend the influences of these events on the groundwater regime.
All of this data, according to Thorsen, is important to supplement the data and accuracy of what is called the “Transient Model” developed by Stone Environmental for predicting influence on the groundwater elevations under flux conditions
“Enhancement of the model with this increased data set will improve the reliability of the model to more accurately predict the influence of future storm events, the influence of existing onsite wastewater treatment systems on the Civic Center area and the influence of the proposed city wastewater recycling facility.” Thorsen added.
The enhanced model will be better able to coordinate all of these anticipated fluxes and stresses on the groundwater regime simultaneously. “This has been expressed as a significant concern by the RWQCB on existing on-site wastewater and for any proposed municipal solution to the prohibition,” he added.
Thorsen bolsters his argument for continuation of the groundwater elevation monitoring by suggesting it is essential in the city’s development of a salt and nutrient plan required by the RWQCB in the permitting of any water recycling facility.
“Salts and nutrients are a byproduct of the water recycling program and must be adequately managed as to not degrade or impair receiving water quality,” noted Thorsen, who added, that many salts and nutrients are soluble and enter the water column at the point of discharge. It could occur at the point of discharge for the city wastewater facility or at the point of discharge for individual property owners utilizing the produced recycled water for irrigation purposes.
The study will also help with the development of dispersal options for the city’s proposed wastewater facility. Dispersal of the treated wastewater will be required during periods when recycled wastewater cannot be used, according to the city manager.
The understanding of the groundwater regime is important in any discharge option the city may consider, according to the city manager, who noted consideration of deep well injection for the wastewater facility is still thought of as an additional option.
“The city is likely to consider a combination of all of these [dispersal ] options with any water recycling facility,” the city manager concluded.
CDBG Funds
It is an agenda item that irritates some city council members when they are asked to approve Community Development Block Grant funding exchanges.
This time the council is being asked to approve an exchange with the city of Hawaiian Gardens for $63,241.
Hawaiian Gardens city officials have offered to exchange the city’s fund for 70 cents on the dollar. The city will receive $44,269 that can be used for any general fund purposes.
Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman told council members that exchange rate is better than in the past when the city was getting 55 cents on the dollar.
“The city receives an allocation of CDBG funds each year from the Los Angeles County Community Development commission,” Feldman said.
In recent years, the city has not been able to identify a project that meets the criteria of funding.
In fiscal year 2009-2010 the city exchanged funds that were subject to recapture with the City of La Mirada and received a total of $32,227 in general funds. These funds were awarded as part for the general fund grant program in fiscal year 2010-2011,” she noted.
By recapture, Feldman means, if the funds are not used they are lost and must be given back.
However, the CDBG program allows cities that cannot use the block grant money to trade and whatever rate is negotiated for real dollars that have no restrictions on them.
In the past, some council members have complained that there should be some kind of program established so the grant funding could be used and there would be no loss of any kind.
Feldman has insisted the staff has not been able to find a project because the criteria is so exacting that there are no applicable programs that could be currently put together in Malibu that the funds could be used for.
The assistant city manager has also said the amount of money that has been obtained on each dollar offers a good return for the city and the funds can then be easily used by the city with no strings attached and for whatever kind of program council members desire.
Feldman told council members that in the past the money has been used for general fund grant programs.
The service funding can usually be used for the Day Labor Exchange Program “We look each year for eligibility,” she concluded.

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