Use of recycled water proposed

Scoping meetings get public feedback for west side reclamation plan

by Ed Moy

The SF Planning Department held two scoping meetings in June to allow public input on the proposed San Francisco Westside Recycled Water Project, which is slated to begin construction in 2010.

As required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Planning Department is currently gathering information to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the plan to use recycled water for various city functions.

Barbara Palacios, the SFPUC's project manager, said the estimated budget for the recycled water project is $149 million, with about $113 million going for construction.

The funds are to be allocated from a 2002 bond measure approved by voters to update the city's water system. More than 70 projects are included in the SFPUC's overall Water System Improvement Program (WISP).

The recycled water project is part of WISP, and includes facility improvement projects designed to ensure compliance with water quality standards, upgrading seismic standards of facilities to reduce vulnerability to earthquakes, improving water delivery reliability, and ensuring an adequate supply of water to customers during drought and non-drought periods through the year 2030.

More than a dozen Richmond and Sunset district residents turned out for the two scoping meetings, held June 16 and 17.

"Is it really necessary?" asked Gloria Goss, a long-time Sunset resident and former secretary to the city's sewage treatment superintendent. "I just don't see the need for it. It's going to be a tremendous expense."

According to Palacios, the current proposal is based on the SFPUC's 2006 Recycled Water Master Plan, which updated a 1996 plan in response to the city's last major drought.

Palacios further pointed out in her presentation at the public meeting that the goal of the SFPUC's recycled water project is to ensure that the city's drinking water supply is not used for non-drinking purposes, such as irrigation.

The recycled water project includes the construction of facilities to treat, store and distribute recycled water to customers located in west San Francisco. Included in the construction are a proposed new 1.5-million-gallon treated water reservoir at the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant, doubling the size of the existing 2-million-gallon underground reservoir in Golden Gate Park, and building a new 1-million-gallon reservoir at Lincoln Park.

The proposed distribution facilities would consist of water-pump stations at the new recycled water treatment facility, Golden Gate Park reservoir and Lincoln Park; approximately seven miles of new pipelines to connect the pump stations and treatment facility; and approximately five to six miles of new pipelines that would branch off of the main distribution line to serve irrigation and commercial customers.

Palacios added that Bay Area cities such as Santa Rosa, San Jose, Daly City and Redwood City are currently using recycled water for landscape irrigation.

As for the possibility of having our local drinking water or potable water mixed up with recycled water, Project Manager Tom Gorman of Kennedy-Jenks Consultants, pointed out that the new system will have a separate dedicated pipeline system to avoid such a problem. Gorman said the new recycled water system will run through purple pipes, which adhere to national industry standards, while the potable water used for drinking, cooking and bathing will continue to run through a blue pipe system. Everything from valves to controls will be marked clearly so that there is no confusion.

The project areas affected by construction will likely be near the SF Zoo, Golden Gate Park and Lincoln Park. Sunset Boulevard in the Sunset and 34th Avenue in the Richmond would be affected because the new pipelines would run under those streets. Alternative streets being considered include 40th Avenue on the Sunset side and 36th Avenue on the Richmond side.

In addressing concerns about construction problems, such as noise, traffic delays, limited parking and street access issues, SF Department of Public Works Project Engineer Lesley Wong stated that postings would go up along the affected areas giving residents a 30-day notice and a 72-hour notice before any construction work begins.

With the completion of scoping meetings, the recycled water project's Draft EIR will next be up for public review in the summer of 2009. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Final EIR sometime in early 2010, with a final decision expected to be made by mid-2010.

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