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Council Approves First Phase Of Pure Water Project

The San Diego City Council meets, Dec. 5, 2016.

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: The San Diego City Council meets, Dec. 5, 2016.

The environmental impact report for phase one of the Pure Water project was unanimously adopted by the City Council Tuesday.

City officials said approval of the report for the North City Project was a vital step in applying for grant dollars to fund phase one, which is projected to cost $1.4 billion.

Phase one proposes a pipeline from the Morena neighborhood to the Miramar Reservoir. Water will be treated along the way at a mix of upgraded and new facilities, including the North City Pure Water Facility, which will be built across from the existing North City Water Reclamation Plant near Miramar Road.

After passing through those facilities, water will be piped to the Miramar Reservoir, where it will blend with reservoir water then receive another round of treatment before being distributed to customers as potable water.

Phase one construction is expected to begin early 2019 and conclude late 2021, said John Helminski, who is spearheading the Pure Water program.

The council discussion Tuesday drew a flurry of public comments in favor of and in opposition to Pure Water plans. Many speakers in the opposition camp emphasized their support of the project itself, but disapproval of the proposed pipeline route. Many also feared possible pipe breakages and persistent sewage odors.

Project officer Keli Balo addressed several potential impacts documented in the environmental impact report.

"Our analysis concludes most of the potential environmental impacts can be mitigated below a level of significance," she said.

Balo said additional routes were considered for multiple sections of the pipeline, but none significantly reduced the environmental impacts of the chosen alignment, and some weren't economically feasible.

Concerns over leakage from a waste water force main that will pump sewage through residential neighborhoods under high pressure aren't warranted, Balo said, as the infrastructure will be rated to even higher psi levels. Pipes also will be injected with oxygen and equipped with carbon filters to offset odors.

City studies indicate Pure Water also won't negatively affect the Miramar Reservoir fishery, and Balo said officials have met with local ecological groups to ensure ecological impact will be minimal.

"We are committed to the protection of sensitive resources," she said.

Officials say the project, initially expected to generate 30 million gallons of purified water per day, could reduce San Diego's dependence on imported water. Implemented in phases, Pure Water is expected by 2035 to ultimately generate 83 million gallons of potable water per day, which would be roughly one-third of the city's water supply.

Currently, 85 percent of San Diego's water supply is imported from Northern California and the Colorado River, according to city documents. Pure Water will allow the city to recycle sewage into drinking water.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said reliable access to water is one of San Diego's most pressing issues.

"Pure Water is an incredible opportunity to gain the water independence we seek — the ability to control our own water supply and destiny as a region for the very first time," Faulconer said.

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