keith israel

Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency General Manager Keith Israel is gearing up for public outreach on groundwater replenishment to get people used to the idea of drinking treated wastewater.

The list of acronyms alone is five pages long.

That's one of two dozen appendices laying out the gritty details of a proposed water supply project using recycled wastewater. 

The draft environmental impact report (EIR) for a proposed groundwater replenishment project, dubbed more agreeably "Pure Water Monterey," is open for public comment through June 5.

The project would expand an existing treatment plant in Marina, operated by the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency, that purifies wastewater (the stuff we flush down our toilets and that runs down our drains), and irrigates some 12,000 acres of farmland. 

Pure Water Monterey would also to deliver 3,500 acre-feet of water per year to the Seaside Groundwater Basin using injection wells, forcing treated water into the aquifer.

The project calls for a new well site and pump station in Seaside, as well as new pipelines at the existing Salinas pump station off Hitchcock Road, behind the animal shelter.  

California American Water would then extract that water using existing wells, and deliver the water to Monterey Peninsula customers using two new pipelines. 

The latter is a key component of Cal Am's plan for cutting back its reliance on Carmel River Water by 70 percent by Jan. 1 of 2017, per a state order to restore flows in the Carmel River. (Cal Am's plan for a desalination plant is on a parallel timeline, with a public comment period also now open for a draft environmental impact report.) 

To keep the project moving on time—and enable Cal Am to scale up its desal plant as a Plan B—the final EIR is expected to be certified this fall. 

That means multiple parties who deliver wastewater to the Marina plant have a few more months to work out their differences over who is entitled to how much treated water. (Those sources of wastewater include urban and industrial water from Salinas and Monterey, as well as waters from the Blanco Drain and Tembladero Slough, some of the most polluted in the state with agricultural runoff.) 

The project plans call for 18 months of construction, including new wells, pipelines and a new, more advanced water treatment plant in Marina. 

The project plan calls for banking extra recycled water to deliver to farmland in drought years, meaning Salinas Valley growers would receive up to 5,290 acre-feet of recycled water per year. (It would average 4,500-4,750 acre-feet in normal years.) 

According to the draft EIR, the impacts of each individual component of the project buildout would be relatively minor, and could mostly be mitigated by techniques to muffle construction noise and bury pipelines deep enough to avoid risk of erosion damage.  

To comment, email or fax 831-372-6178.

Local water officials answer questions at two public meetings, Wednesday May 20 from 6-8pm at Oldemeyer Center in Seaside, and Thursday May 21 from 4-6pm at Hartnell College in room B-208.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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