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City, Water Regulators Disagree on Qualcomm Clean-up Plan

As much as 500,000 gallons of fuel leaked below this Mission Valley Terminal in the 1980s, contaminating the groundwater below.
Amita Sharma
As much as 500,000 gallons of fuel leaked below this Mission Valley Terminal in the 1980s, contaminating the groundwater below.

Water pollution regulators and the city of San Diego are at odds over how best to clean up contaminated groundwater at Qualcomm Stadium. The two sides along with Kinder Morgan Energy - the company responsible for the cleanup - are set to meet today.

As part of the cleanup, each day Kinder Morgan extracts half a million gallons of water from the contamination site, treats it and then discharges it into Murphy Canyon Creek. Marsi Steirer, of the city's water department, wants the company instead to re-inject the treated water into the contaminated aquifer.

"Our experts believe that this re-injection of the water into the aquifer can help speed up the cleanup as well as create stored water that San Diegans can re-use once the cleanup is complete" says Steirer.

But the water board's Craig Carlisle says legally, regulators can't tell dischargers how to clean up contamination. They can only require it.

Even so, Carlisle says the board's own experts say re-injecting the treated water carries risks.

"Re-injection would potentially send the plume different directions and if you putting water back in the ground, it mounds up potentially, and then you need a different monitoring system to see where that went," says Carlisle.

Kinder Morgan representatives say the process is also expensive. The plume is the result of leaks decades ago at the petroleum tank farm just north of the stadium.

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