Last week, Poseidon Water agreed to postpone the hearing on its proposed Huntington Beach Desalination Project and work with state regulators on a process that will ensure a rigorous review of the project. Orange County Coastkeeper says this is good news for residents and ratepayers because the review process is designed to protect the county’s valuable coastline, clean air and water and ensure proposed desalination projects serve the public interest.
“Poseidon has been preying on drought fears to try to fast track this billion-dollar project, but the decision to work with the regulators will provide due process and smart safeguards for the public,” says Coastkeeper Executive Director Garry Brown.
Poseidon has racked up a dozen water quality permit violations at its Carlsbad desalination plant in the past year including polluting the ocean with toxic discharges, so the State will look especially close at Poseidon’s application to renew an outdated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water quality permit for the Huntington Beach project.
“Last year, California adopted new rules to ensure all desalination projects demonstrate the need for the water they want to produce, identify appropriate sites and use the best available technology to minimize harm to sea life,” says Brown. “As proposed, Poseidon’s Huntington Beach plant would not be in compliance with those rules.”
The postponement comes with the understanding that the three state permitting agencies involved — California Coastal Commission, Santa Ana Regional Water Board and State Water Resources Control Boards and the State Lands Commission — will work together on an interagency permitting agreement that provides for review under existing laws and regulations, including the new desalination rules. In addition to getting a new NPDES permit, the proposal must also be evaluated under the California Environmental Quality Act and the California Coastal Act.
“We view this postponement as a positive step towards ensuring that this project gets the appropriate environmental review it deserves consistent with current law,” says Brown. “There are still a significant number of unanswered questions on the project. On top of all the environmental, economic and energy impacts this plant would have on Orange County, there has been no proven need for this water.”
Coastkeeper says that Poseidon has yet to address the following concerns:
- The plant is still proposed to be built on an earthquake fault in a tsunami run up zone
- Poseidon has not adequately studied alternative sites for the plant
- The brine discharge from the plant will degrade water quality and marine life
- Poseidon has not adequately studied the impacts of the plant on Marine Protected Areas
For more information, read this story on the impacts of the Poseidon-Huntington Beach desalination plant.
This article was released by Orange County Coastkeeper.