Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Pure Water project — aka toilet to tap — may top $3 billion

It costs a lot to drink sewer water

The stickiest wicket is that of cost. While there are no hard numbers, when all is said and done the price tag will likely be around $3 billion.
The stickiest wicket is that of cost. While there are no hard numbers, when all is said and done the price tag will likely be around $3 billion.

The saga of the city trying to avoid shelling out $2 billion to upgrade the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant continues. The star of this full-length multi-technical feature is the Clean Water Act that mandates publicly owned sewage-treatment facilities use “secondary treatment” to minimize harmful impacts from wastewater that’s dumped into the ocean.

The Point Loma plant has gotten around this knotty issue by applying for waivers every five years since 1995. A new tentative waiver went out for public review on October 28.

Unless Congress decides the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant won’t need an upgrade, wastewater ratepayers in other cities will be on the hook to pay one-third of the estimated $2 billion cost.

The key justification in the city’s latest application was the Pure Water project, which has as its goal taking part of the 160 million gallons of wastewater currently being dumped into the ocean on a daily basis and turning it into drinkable water — 83 million gallons a day by 2035.

The idea of “toilet to tap” didn’t receive much cheerleading until 2011 when mayor Jerry Sanders endorsed the idea and a pilot project began in Miramar. The city shelling out $2.5 million for some hardcore public relations starting in 2010 didn’t hurt.

Lani Lutar
Chris Cate

Local lobbyist Lani Lutar was part of that effort starting as early as 2013, as evidenced by a signed commitment letter and lobbying disclosure forms. While being compensated by the city for Pure Water outreach, Lutar was lobbying the city on behalf of firms interested in Pure Water contracts. She was also busy with local campaign fundraisers — including for Chris Cate, with whom she used to lobby. In 2013, Cate lobbied both his future District 6 office and the mayor’s office regarding water policy.

During this same period, Lutar was also the main point of contact for the Water Reliability Coalition and on the board of Mayor Faulconer’s nonprofit. The former is a diverse group focused on moving forward water-recycling projects like Pure Water, while the latter is Faulconer’s brain-child focused on educating the public on public policy by hosting community events “to relieve the [city] of the costs and burden of conducting activities on behalf of the office of the Mayor.”

Of the five big Pure Water contracts totaling $102 million awarded since 2010, Lutar has connections to all of them — either having lobbied specifically on the future contractor’s behalf or as a group via the Water Reliability Coalition.

The starkest example is with the most recent Pure Water contract awarded in October for the pump station on Morena Boulevard. The winner of this $15 million contract was AECOM. In 2015, Lutar collected $55,000 from AECOM to lobby the mayor and members of the city council while also collecting $43,060 from the city’s public utilities department for Pure Water public outreach. In addition, she was compensated $13,000 from a North County water district for lobbying the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities department, the mayor’s office, and every single councilmember’s office regarding recycled-water rates.

Anyone who has been watching the Pure Water saga recalls the original plan was to produce 15 million gallons per day of drinking water out of Miramar by 2023, another 15 million gallons at South Bay by 2027, and 53 million gallons coming from the Central Area by 2035.

Halla Razak

Public Utilities Department director Halla Razak discussed the change of plans in front of the city council and those protesting the changes on October 25. “When we started looking closer at the design elements of the first 15 [million gallons a day of drinking water at Miramar], it became very quickly evident that we didn’t have enough wastewater flow to in fact generate both the purple pipe water [for industrial use] and the commitments we have, as well as the 15 [million gallons of drinking water].”

Razak went on to explain that a total wastewater flow of 32.4 million gallons a day was needed and all they had was 26.3 million gallons flowing in from Peñasquitos Pump Station 64. This is when Razak’s department switched gears and landed on doubling the output to 30 million gallons per day of drinking water out of Miramar by 2021 and building a pump station on Morena Boulevard to solve the sewage-flow shortage. Razak said not only will it save millions of dollars, but it’ll double the drinking water output six years ahead of schedule — 30 million gallons per day in 2021 versus 2027.

Second phase

As for now, the second phase of Pure Water is still to produce an additional 53 million gallons per day of drinking water by 2035 out of the Central Area (San Vicente and Lake Murray reservoirs) and South Bay (Lower Otay Reservoir).

Despite the impressive feat of doubling the output of locally produced drinking water six years ahead of schedule, there are still a few possible hitches around the bend.

The issue of the Point Loma plant needing to apply for another waiver before Pure Water goes online is a concern for some. The 2014 cooperative agreement between the city and some environmental groups does give the city some respite in regards to Point Loma. The agreement states that if legislative relief isn’t obtained before the next waiver application is submitted in 2019, the agreement is over and out. The waiver can also be revoked if testing shows outflow quality degrading, according to Nahal Mogharabi from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Phase One of Pure Water

The stickiest wicket is that of cost. While there are no hard numbers, when all is said and done the price tag will likely be around $3 billion; Razak estimates the first phase of the project will come in at $1 billion.

At the October 25 city-council meeting, a speaker opposed to the project pointed to the Carlsbad desalination plant, which opened a year ago, already producing 50 million gallons per day. He said that with other sources like this coming online soon, the Pure Water project will be redundant when it finally gets up and running.

“It’s minimal in its impact and it’s maximum in its cost. You are spending the equivalent to four new stadiums and you don’t even have the scientific study in your hand to make that decision.”

Jerry Jones

The Metro Wastewater Joint Powers Authority consists of municipalities and special districts that use the City of San Diego’s wastewater facilities. They foot around one-third of the bill. In October, this group voted against the Pure Water project. Jerry Jones, a Lemon Grove city councilmember and member of the water authority, explained the vote: “It’s not because they’re opposed to the project, it’s more the timeline and cost that are causing the rift.

“The concern and disagreement began in July when [city] staff informed the [group] that milestones and expenditures, which were not expected for ten years, were to be moved up to present planning. That change in plans came with a $400 million price tag.”

Jones said the main reason given by city staff was that due to drought conservation, there just wasn’t enough wastewater flow to meet the 2023 milestones to have 15 million gallons of drinking water per day.

“At that time we had no data to confirm the decreased flows and no financial data to understand what the costs would be, what we were paying for, or how this would impact our ratepayers.”

Jones said financial experts estimated a potential rate increase as high as 80 percent. He also said that wastewater ratepayers in other cities would be subsidizing water customers in the City of San Diego. Jones called this out as a violation of Proposition 218.

Proposition 218 is a 1996 California constitutional article that indicates the city can’t implement new rates if the majority of citizens protest the rates in writing. This could jeopardize the project if the public doesn’t support future rate hikes.

“Our concern,” Jones says, “is that the changes are being rushed ahead of work that needs to be done to secure secondary [treatment] equivalency though a congressional waiver.”

Jones said that even though local environmental stakeholders are committed to securing a permanent congressional waiver, he thinks that it could be a can of worms that might not fly in Washington or with national environmental groups.

Two other important issues still in limbo for the city are figuring out how to train operators to work with both drinking water and wastewater — this ought to be spelled out in an engineering report due out in early 2017 — and what exactly the state-level recycling criteria is for Pure Water. It’s telling that the draft criteria out for public review in October was littered with this phrase: “knowledge gaps.”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Is Midway the new Soccer City?

Fresh chapter unfolds in San Diego's well-lobbied Sports Arena muddle
Next Article

“I Come From the Andromeda Galaxy”

Alfred Howard, James Brady, Me, Myself and Eye, Orchid Mantis, Puttin’ on the Fritz
The stickiest wicket is that of cost. While there are no hard numbers, when all is said and done the price tag will likely be around $3 billion.
The stickiest wicket is that of cost. While there are no hard numbers, when all is said and done the price tag will likely be around $3 billion.

The saga of the city trying to avoid shelling out $2 billion to upgrade the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant continues. The star of this full-length multi-technical feature is the Clean Water Act that mandates publicly owned sewage-treatment facilities use “secondary treatment” to minimize harmful impacts from wastewater that’s dumped into the ocean.

The Point Loma plant has gotten around this knotty issue by applying for waivers every five years since 1995. A new tentative waiver went out for public review on October 28.

Unless Congress decides the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant won’t need an upgrade, wastewater ratepayers in other cities will be on the hook to pay one-third of the estimated $2 billion cost.

The key justification in the city’s latest application was the Pure Water project, which has as its goal taking part of the 160 million gallons of wastewater currently being dumped into the ocean on a daily basis and turning it into drinkable water — 83 million gallons a day by 2035.

The idea of “toilet to tap” didn’t receive much cheerleading until 2011 when mayor Jerry Sanders endorsed the idea and a pilot project began in Miramar. The city shelling out $2.5 million for some hardcore public relations starting in 2010 didn’t hurt.

Lani Lutar
Chris Cate

Local lobbyist Lani Lutar was part of that effort starting as early as 2013, as evidenced by a signed commitment letter and lobbying disclosure forms. While being compensated by the city for Pure Water outreach, Lutar was lobbying the city on behalf of firms interested in Pure Water contracts. She was also busy with local campaign fundraisers — including for Chris Cate, with whom she used to lobby. In 2013, Cate lobbied both his future District 6 office and the mayor’s office regarding water policy.

During this same period, Lutar was also the main point of contact for the Water Reliability Coalition and on the board of Mayor Faulconer’s nonprofit. The former is a diverse group focused on moving forward water-recycling projects like Pure Water, while the latter is Faulconer’s brain-child focused on educating the public on public policy by hosting community events “to relieve the [city] of the costs and burden of conducting activities on behalf of the office of the Mayor.”

Of the five big Pure Water contracts totaling $102 million awarded since 2010, Lutar has connections to all of them — either having lobbied specifically on the future contractor’s behalf or as a group via the Water Reliability Coalition.

The starkest example is with the most recent Pure Water contract awarded in October for the pump station on Morena Boulevard. The winner of this $15 million contract was AECOM. In 2015, Lutar collected $55,000 from AECOM to lobby the mayor and members of the city council while also collecting $43,060 from the city’s public utilities department for Pure Water public outreach. In addition, she was compensated $13,000 from a North County water district for lobbying the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities department, the mayor’s office, and every single councilmember’s office regarding recycled-water rates.

Anyone who has been watching the Pure Water saga recalls the original plan was to produce 15 million gallons per day of drinking water out of Miramar by 2023, another 15 million gallons at South Bay by 2027, and 53 million gallons coming from the Central Area by 2035.

Halla Razak

Public Utilities Department director Halla Razak discussed the change of plans in front of the city council and those protesting the changes on October 25. “When we started looking closer at the design elements of the first 15 [million gallons a day of drinking water at Miramar], it became very quickly evident that we didn’t have enough wastewater flow to in fact generate both the purple pipe water [for industrial use] and the commitments we have, as well as the 15 [million gallons of drinking water].”

Razak went on to explain that a total wastewater flow of 32.4 million gallons a day was needed and all they had was 26.3 million gallons flowing in from Peñasquitos Pump Station 64. This is when Razak’s department switched gears and landed on doubling the output to 30 million gallons per day of drinking water out of Miramar by 2021 and building a pump station on Morena Boulevard to solve the sewage-flow shortage. Razak said not only will it save millions of dollars, but it’ll double the drinking water output six years ahead of schedule — 30 million gallons per day in 2021 versus 2027.

Second phase

As for now, the second phase of Pure Water is still to produce an additional 53 million gallons per day of drinking water by 2035 out of the Central Area (San Vicente and Lake Murray reservoirs) and South Bay (Lower Otay Reservoir).

Despite the impressive feat of doubling the output of locally produced drinking water six years ahead of schedule, there are still a few possible hitches around the bend.

The issue of the Point Loma plant needing to apply for another waiver before Pure Water goes online is a concern for some. The 2014 cooperative agreement between the city and some environmental groups does give the city some respite in regards to Point Loma. The agreement states that if legislative relief isn’t obtained before the next waiver application is submitted in 2019, the agreement is over and out. The waiver can also be revoked if testing shows outflow quality degrading, according to Nahal Mogharabi from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Phase One of Pure Water

The stickiest wicket is that of cost. While there are no hard numbers, when all is said and done the price tag will likely be around $3 billion; Razak estimates the first phase of the project will come in at $1 billion.

At the October 25 city-council meeting, a speaker opposed to the project pointed to the Carlsbad desalination plant, which opened a year ago, already producing 50 million gallons per day. He said that with other sources like this coming online soon, the Pure Water project will be redundant when it finally gets up and running.

“It’s minimal in its impact and it’s maximum in its cost. You are spending the equivalent to four new stadiums and you don’t even have the scientific study in your hand to make that decision.”

Jerry Jones

The Metro Wastewater Joint Powers Authority consists of municipalities and special districts that use the City of San Diego’s wastewater facilities. They foot around one-third of the bill. In October, this group voted against the Pure Water project. Jerry Jones, a Lemon Grove city councilmember and member of the water authority, explained the vote: “It’s not because they’re opposed to the project, it’s more the timeline and cost that are causing the rift.

“The concern and disagreement began in July when [city] staff informed the [group] that milestones and expenditures, which were not expected for ten years, were to be moved up to present planning. That change in plans came with a $400 million price tag.”

Jones said the main reason given by city staff was that due to drought conservation, there just wasn’t enough wastewater flow to meet the 2023 milestones to have 15 million gallons of drinking water per day.

“At that time we had no data to confirm the decreased flows and no financial data to understand what the costs would be, what we were paying for, or how this would impact our ratepayers.”

Jones said financial experts estimated a potential rate increase as high as 80 percent. He also said that wastewater ratepayers in other cities would be subsidizing water customers in the City of San Diego. Jones called this out as a violation of Proposition 218.

Proposition 218 is a 1996 California constitutional article that indicates the city can’t implement new rates if the majority of citizens protest the rates in writing. This could jeopardize the project if the public doesn’t support future rate hikes.

“Our concern,” Jones says, “is that the changes are being rushed ahead of work that needs to be done to secure secondary [treatment] equivalency though a congressional waiver.”

Jones said that even though local environmental stakeholders are committed to securing a permanent congressional waiver, he thinks that it could be a can of worms that might not fly in Washington or with national environmental groups.

Two other important issues still in limbo for the city are figuring out how to train operators to work with both drinking water and wastewater — this ought to be spelled out in an engineering report due out in early 2017 — and what exactly the state-level recycling criteria is for Pure Water. It’s telling that the draft criteria out for public review in October was littered with this phrase: “knowledge gaps.”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Moved to tears by Dave’s Hot Chicken

Nashville hot chicken ranges from no spice, to hot, to the indemnified “reaper”
Next Article

Building paradise in San Diego

Mission Valley, Tijuana gardens, Otay Mesa, downtown skyscrapers, One Paseo, Rancho Santa Fe mansion
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close