$ 950 million East County water treatment project could be jeopardized as San Diego abandons pipeline deal

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Eastern District officials fear a $ 950 million wastewater treatment project could be washed down the drain because of the pipeline agreement.

Leaders leading the event blame San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who signed the eight-mile “brine line” last year but has since abandoned the commitment.

The pipeline will prevent the concentrated waste generated in the East County project’s reverse osmosis filtration system from entering the city’s own $ 5 billion Clean water A wastewater treatment project is currently under construction. Instead, the by-product will be sent to the city’s large wastewater system.

San Diego still wants the pipeline built, but now it demands it East County Advanced Water Treatment Program to pay a bill of about $ 35 million.

East County officials said the pipeline was unnecessary and that the city’s demands could undermine already short construction deadlines. The cost of the project, according to officials, has risen in recent years from $ 640 million due to inflation, rising construction costs and disruptions in supply chains.

“We face a very real risk of delays, significant cost increases or even worse,” said Alain Carlisle, CEO and general manager of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District and administrator of the East County Waste Recycling Project. “Ultimately, the reality of the project is at stake.”

The East County Wastewater Treatment Project – a partnership between San Diego County, El Cajon, Helix Water District and Padre Dam Municipal Water District – is scheduled to launch in 2026. This will create about 2,500 local jobs and provide up to 30 percent of the Eastern District’s water supply.

Gloria’s office declined several interview requests for this story. But the city said in an email that it recently learned that its agreement to pay for the pipeline would violate Prop. 218, a state law that prohibits raising property taxes for services that do not directly benefit homeowners. The city did not explain why you have to pay for the project real estate tax.

Carlisle said the pipeline – which will go from the pumping station on the Santi border through the Mission Trails regional park – is unnecessary. He said the city has demanded its construction, despite numerous studies showing that East County’s advanced water treatment program can safely dispose of waste into the Pure Water system.

“We don’t know exactly what worries them,” Carlisle said. “We spent about 18 months modeling this with city staff in 2018. Both teams have been unable to detect the impact on the very small number of remnants that fall into this massive system. ”

In its email, the city objected that “high-end waste … could disrupt the treatment process and jeopardize the quality of processed drinking water.”

Carlisle said that as a result of the conflict, the city is now abandoning another long-standing deal: the transfer of the East Mission Gorge pumping station. City property in Santi was to be sold to East County’s advanced water treatment program for about $ 2 million.

East County officials said owning a pumping station was all they needed, but now the city is holding a deal to get them to pay for the pipeline.

“What the city is doing is unethical,” said Steve Goble, a member of El Cajon’s board and part of the governing board that oversees the proposed plant in East County. “You can’t hold this thing hostage to try to get a better deal on a fully executed deal.”

The Steering Committee of the recycling project is scheduled to discuss at Fr. public hearings on Thursday the idea of ​​occupying the property of the pumping station is an outstanding domain. This move could be controversial and provoke a lawsuit.

Reporter Blake Nelson contributed to this report.

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