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Desalinated Groundwater Threatened By Future Landfill

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A North County city plans to expand its future water supply by reclaiming more local groundwater. But that groundwater may be threatened by a proposed landfill nearby.

Oceanside has an unusually large groundwater basin that currently supplies up to 20 percent of residents’ needs. City Water Department Director Cari Dale says a $1.4 million federal grant will pay to see if the brackish groundwater can be desalinated to supply up to half of the city’s water supply.

“It benefits all San Diego ratepayers,” Dale said, "everybody purchasing water from the California Water Authority. There would be more water available for other users.”

However, Dale is concerned that a developer’s proposal to build a landfill at Gregory Canyon could eventually pollute the San Luis Rey river, which feeds into the groundwater basin. Developers have spent almost 20 years and millions of dollars working to win approval for the landfill.

Dale said even if leakage from the landfill was prevented for a century, the city needs to be thinking longer term if it is investing in generating new water sources.

"Should some sort of leak occur," she said, "whether at the Gregory Canyon site or anywhere else, it is certainly something that would have a cost that would be born by ratepayers."

Councilmember Gary Felien is part of the city council’s pro-development majority that recently voted against a bill by State Senator Juan Vargas to stop the landfill. Felien said he trusts the environmental review process.

“Certainly water is going to be the key issue,” Felien said. “And if I thought there was any threat to the water whatsoever, it is certainly easier to find something to do with the trash than find new water. That’s why people more educated than myself are reviewing the proposal to make sure it represents no threat to the water."

Felien said he knows some of the people involved in the Gregory Canyon landfill proposal personally, but he has not received any campaign contributions from the developer.

The state agency that overseas trash dumps, CalRecycle, recently granted a permit for Gregory Canyon landfill, saying it complies with state regulations, and the benefits outweigh the problems. The project still needs more permits, including one from the San Diego Water Quality Control Board.

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