reaction to excessive sewer spills in Laguna Beach, which total 22 in
2002-03 through May 31, according to State Water Resources Control
The City Council unveiled a plan in its "conceptual stage" Tuesday
devised by the Waste Water Advisory Committee and city staff that
should result in an ordinance in 90 to 120 days. The plan puts more
responsibility on private owners to keep their sewers clean and to
coordinate with the city when cleaning or repairing.
The plan presented by Asst. City Manager John Pietig calls for a
gradual overhaul of the city's private sewer lines, calling it a
three-year plan starting with the most at-risk neighborhoods first.
"The tree isn't necessarily the problem," Pietig said. "A properly
sealed lateral will not allow root filtration."
Properly sealed laterals, however, could cost residents more than
Pietig's $3,000 to $5,000 estimate, Cheryl Kinsman and Roger von
Butow of Clean Water Now! said.
Kinsman said she couldn't support the plan because it was too much
to pile on residents at one time.
"This may come as a shock to people, but not everybody in Laguna
Beach is rich," Kinsman said.
Resident Dave Connell spoke later on the same topic, representing
Laguna Beach's senior population living on social security. He said
the estimated cost of fixing private sewer lines could knock out half
of his income.
Sewers are important, but not worth breaking citizens or putting
them deep in debt, he added.
Councilman Wayne Baglin stressed that something drastic must be
done or the EPA will act upon the city again. He said they need to
put as much responsibility on owners as possible to keep Laguna's
sewers from spilling.
In 2002-03, Laguna Beach has more than twice as many sewer spills
as any other South County city, according to State Water Resources
Control Board data.
"Because of the EPA, we have the responsibility to give them a
program," Baglin said. "They're being a little heavy-handed."
The plan also includes heavier and more frequent fines when
residents' lines spill, especially if they reach the beach.
The council introduced some amendments to the submitted tentative
plan, including extending residents' time to fix faulty sewer lines
from 90 to 180 days and not fining those who do everything suggested
by the city, but still suffer a spill.
The council also suggested developing a payment plan system of
$100 a month instead of hitting residents with a lump sum.
The council voted 4 to 1 in favor of the amended plan, but it's
still considered in the discussion stage. However, if a city
ordinance is developed, then it could affect every resident, except
those in South Laguna, who are subject to a different water quality
"If people understood what this was, this room would be full,"