CARLSBAD – As far as the complexities of building the largest desalination plant in the Americas go, Peter MacLaggan, vice president of Poseidon Water said it was hard to say where the most critical element of the project was.
Over the last several months crews have been working to demolish tanks that were on the Carlsbad site where the 5.5-acre plant will go. A demolition job that was made all the more complex due to the environmentally hazardous materials that had to be handled, managed and moved off site to an appropriate disposal landfill, MacLaggan said.
On July 6, a crew of 45 craft construction workers began pouring concrete that will serve as the foundation for parts of the plant.
Once that’s done, MacLaggan explained, structures will be set in place and the plant’s technologies will be installed.
On the site will be a large pump station that will pump the water through two massive pipes that will go between the plant and the pump station, which, MacLaggan said, will be made complex by having to go underneath the heart of the nearby power plant.
Entering into a 30-year agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority, the Carlsbad Desalination Project, as it has come to be known, represents 8 percent of the total water demand for the county, said Carlos Riva, CEO, Poseidon Water.
“Very importantly it’s also local, so it’s not imported from long distances,” Silva said. “It’s…water coming from the Pacific Ocean, so to the extent there are uncertainties about climate change and drought…this will not be affected by those factors.”
The project, 15 years in the making, will produce 50 million gallons of fresh water per day, and they’re expecting fresh water production before the end of 2015, he said.
MacLaggan said the contract completion date for the plant is Nov. 26, 2015.
“We have a goal of getting done earlier,” he said, adding that it was too early to confirm whether they’re on track to get done earlier. “But we might be able to shave a few weeks off of that schedule if all goes well,” he said.
The plant is to be fully operational by the November date, which includes the completion of water testing phases.
For Carlsbad, Mayor Matt Hall said they are planning on how to bring the purchased water to the city’s life sciences companies so they have the best water possible and to help grow those businesses.
The new facility, he added, will help to create thousands of jobs in North County.
Earlier this year, work began on a 10 mile-long pipeline that will carry water from the Carlsbad plant to the water authority’s second aqueduct in San Marcos.
MacLaggan said 1,500 feet of pipeline has already been laid, starting in San Marcos. That part of the pipeline will continue working west toward the direction of the plant.
On June 17, crews will begin work on the westerly reach of the pipeline and start heading east from the desalination plant. Work is expected to begin in Carlsbad at that time at Cannon Road and Avenida de Encinas.
A third heading of the pipeline will also begin later this month in Vista at Poinsettia Avenue and West Linda Vista and will work westerly.
MacLaggan said he expects the pipeline to be completed by the end of 2014, with a total of 75 construction workers to complete it.
There are 120 engineering professionals working on the plant, 90 of which are in Carlsbad and 30 are in Israel working on the design of the plant, MacLaggan said. The number of construction workers at the Carlsbad site is expected to peak at 340 by next year.
With bond financing rates dipping, Silva said they were fortunate to close financing below their initial projections. A benefit, he said, that would go the consumer and the cost of water.
The water authority estimates that a typical household of four people in the county will pay approximately $5 to $7 more for water by 2016.