ESCONDIDO — A controversial proposal for a recycled water facility was put on hold indefinitely Wednesday during the City Council meeting.
Mayor Sam Abed said the move was due to the concerns of dozens of residents, who spoke at last week’s town hall meeting. On Wednesday, however, residents from the Chaparral Glen neighborhood and other surrounding areas near Dixon Lake packed the chambers to voice their displeasure with the site selection.
The item was continued by the council and they directed staff to explore other site locations and mitigation measures.
Despite the delay, residents voiced suspicion and possible ulterior motives for the action.
The location is a 3.25-acre lot jammed between two churches and dozens of homes along East Washington Road and El Norte Parkway. The project calls for two buildings, standing at 37 feet tall, to treat 2 million gallons of water per day with designs for accommodating future equipment to provide an additional 1 million gallons of capacity.
“We are talking a lot, but we feel like we’re not being heard,” said resident organizer Diane Belnap. “You can explore mitigation or other locations. You could create a task force with community members.”
Throughout the discussion, however, Abed emphasized the delay was in fact to research other sites and steadfastly said if issues concerning any possible toxins introduced into the air came about, the plant would be put somewhere else.
He said the process will be transparent and the city will work with the resident to resolve their concerns.
“We will not put chemicals (near homes) that risk our children’s and residents’ health,” he said. “We will not do it.”
Belnap, who spearheaded residents to voice their concerns with the facility, said Abed opted to bury this issue until after the June 7 primary for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, which he is running for the District 3 seat.
“He doesn’t want this on his plate,” she said.
Other residents, meanwhile, listed exhaustively the concerns of the facility including decreasing home values, air and visual pollution, noise, traffic and inappropriate zoning, to name a few.
Randall Roberts, who lives on Jonathan Place and worked in the water industry for years, said he supports the idea, but not the location. He volunteered to be part of any “commission” between the city and the residents.
Another resident, Steve Mayberry, said the city should consider building a park in the space, which would provide an outlet for the neighborhood’s children.
Others who spoke, meanwhile, hammered home the point of chemicals, pollution and property values.
One woman put it bluntly, “If this were your neighborhood, would you put this here?”
A conditional use permit would be used to construct the facility for an advance treatment of recycled water from the city’s Hale Avenue Recovery Facility station.
Three underground storage tanks would also be installed and they include a 90,000-gallon feeder, 163,000-gallon inter-processer and storage for 970,000 gallons on the 3.25-acre site. In addition, a 1,500-kilowatt backup generator will be installed. A six-foot wall and decorative fencing will also be erected around the tanks.
The new plant would use membrane filtration and reverse osmosis to produce up to 2 million gallons of water per day.
The recycled water is used for landscaping and agricultural and created to provided a more dependable and sustainable supply. In addition, recycled water allows the city to be less dependent on imported water.