Guest Column: Common sense can solve the Flintridge wastewater issue

Just as surely as Christmas is coming, so, too, is the day of reckoning for Flintridge's lack of a comprehensive solution to its wastewater problem. The only real question for those of us who live south of Foothill is whether we decide to take the initiative and forge a reasonable compromise with both the city of La Cañada Flintridge and L.A. County, or simply sit back and let others force an unfairly expensive and environmentally unnecessary sewer system down our protesting throats.

Putting the issue in its proper perspective, it is critical for everyone (particularly our own city council and county officials) to fully understand that Flintridge is not Malibu. We are not dumping tens of thousands of gallons of waste into the Pacific Ocean.

In fact, given the abundance of granite beneath our homes, it is arguable that Flintridge wastewater does not even reach, much less contaminate, local groundwater.

The city of La Cañada Flintridge has installed enough conventional sewer pipe along and north of Foothill Boulevard to eliminate between 75 and 80% of the city's wastewater at an average homeowner cost of approximately $15,000. To ask those of us who live in Flintridge to pony up between $50,000 and $75,000 for a less robust system is as unreasonable as it is unnecessary. Particularly when these sums are estimates only and subject to upward revision if the project ends up costing more than the original estimate. We've all been around long enough to know how cost plus government contracts work.

It's time for some common sense. I propose the following:

As a New Year's resolution, and prior to any efforts dedicated to forming an assessment district, establish a proactive Flintridge wastewater working group under the aegis of City Hall. The purpose of this group should be to gather enough information to (1) persuade the County of Los Angeles that LCF has gone above and beyond in its attempts to comply with sewer mandates and (2) authorize LCF to investigate the use of stand alone gray water recycling systems as an environmentally friendly solution to Flintridge's relatively insignificant wastewater disposal problem.

Gray water recycling is scientifically proven and it is affordable. Better yet, it is a proactive way to counter looming water shortages and it will have the added benefit of eliminating annoying odors from overflowing cesspools.

Based on a quick Internet search, an average system for a typical home would cost approximately $2,500 and the recycled water can be safely used on lawns and in gardens.

Add a couple of thousand dollars to pay for city and county oversight and we can easily solve our wastewater predicament for under $5,000 per property, even less, if property owners elect to share a system. Solid wastes can be disposed of as before.

There are viable, economic solutions to the Flintridge wastewater problem. However, a $100,000 sewer system is not one of them, unless, of course, the city finds a way to pay for it under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Which, come to think of it, might be the best solution of all.

Get in touch ROBERT LANG, a resident of Oxford Way in Flintridge, can be reached at

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