ESCONDIDO — The plans for a new water facility are receiving more pushback from residents — again.
This time, residents near the newly proposed site at 1201 E. Washington Ave., which intersects with Ash Street, are giving the city an earful.
It’s the second proposed site for the water plant that has generated controversy over potential health concerns.
Barbara Takahara, president of the Cedar Lane Neighborhood Group, said she is extremely disappointed in the new location. Her neighborhood is about two blocks from the proposed site.
“To put in industrial on that corner is bringing us down,” Takahara said. “There are so many other things that could go there.”
Director of Utilities Chris McKinney said city staff is still battling “misinformation” concerning the facility. He stressed the new water plant won’t be a wastewater treatment plant, which produces odors and noise.
“This idea in the community… that we were … building another version of the HARRF is simply not true,” McKinney said. “There will be no raw sewage coming in. The water coming in … is already highly treated. It’s good for irrigation purposes.”
The project initially came under fire in May when the city proposed the site on a 3.25-acre lot jammed between two churches and dozens of homes along East Washington Road and El Norte Parkway.
However, dozens of residents bombarded the City Council during a meeting to protest the location. The council tabled the agenda item so city staff could locate a suitable site.
The City Council in January will next decide on whether to recommend the approval of a conditional use permit for the 4.5-acre site, that would allow the plant to be built.
The planning commission gave its approval on the recommendation at its Dec. 13 meeting. The city also completed a mitigated negative declaration in October.
Though Assistant General Manager Russell Nakaoka of The Springs of Escondido, a senior living facility with 104 units next to the site, echoed Takahara’s sentiments. He claimed the site isn’t zoned for heavy industrial, and would make renting the units more difficult in the future, as more than 30 units face the site.
“The nice thing about this site is it’s centrally located,” McKinney said. “It’s on an existing right of way. This facility helps us minimize the amount of pipe we have to build. It’s already owned by the Utility Department, so it saves the taxpayer and we don’t have to spend millions buying new property.”
At the planning commission’s meeting this month, Nakaoka and 15 to 20 other residents from The Springs attended. He said they would attend the Jan. 11 council meeting, too.
Escondido has been aggressive in its recycled water expansion in the past several years. This new proposal is for a membrane filtration/reverse osmosis facility to add 2 million gallons per day of treated recycled water to the city’s system.
It would provide advanced treatment of recycled water from the city’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF) station.
McKinney said the additional treatment would remove salt so the water can be used for agricultural purposes.
As for approving the project, the commission said the plant would be housed with facades to blend in to the neighborhood.
By building the plant at the proposed location, which is bounded by two roads and the Escondido Creek Flood Control Channel, it would avoid building additional recycled water infrastructure and would decrease the capacity demand on the outfall pipeline.
“In the long term, we can add processes to treat the water to drinking water,” McKinney explained.
The facility could also be expanded to 3 million gallons per day, should it be determined the city needs to increase its capacity.
Two buildings would comprise the new plant, one consisting of 21,660-square feet and the other at 14,400-square feet and housing the chemicals needed. In addition, aboveground storage tanks, totaling 1.26 million gallons would be on site and range between 27 and 31 feet high.
Construction noise will be mitigated, but once completed, McKinney said soundproofing measures will be installed and the noise generated would amount to a “human whisper” at the property boundary.
The traffic impacts are negligible, he added, since it will be an unstaffed facility, although chemical deliveries will happen once every few weeks.
As for the chemicals, McKinney said all have a fire hazard of zero — in other words, they will not burn. In addition, the building will have drains and capture “vessels” and other safety measures in case of a spill.
McKinney said none of the chemicals used — especially since the amount is not a significant amount — wouldn’t present any danger if exposed to the outside.
“We are not going to have a huge amount of chemicals on site,” he added. “The chemicals will be stored in their own containment vessel and have a bathtub containment underneath. They don’t vaporize or have a tendency to form a cloud or anything like that.”
According to city staff reports, the structure housing the chemicals would be at least 256 feet away from the senior complex.
However, Nakaoka said the distance does not ease the residents’ concerns about living close to a facility with active chemicals.
“We just don’t feel it fits the location,” Nakaoka said. “It’s a heavy industrial use plan. It’s right adjacent to our property. To picture a water plant there as they designed it is not an attractive site.”