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Council approves sludge line

Opponents of the project say the council should have waited to make a decision until a permanent solution could be determined.

March 07, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

An aging and decrepit pipe that carries solid waste through parkland from the coastal treatment plant to the regional treatment plant will be replaced, despite environmental concerns.

The City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday for the project, which was recommended by the South Orange County Wastewater Authority as the most feasible in terms of funding, longevity and urgency to avoid a catastrophic spill from the deteriorating pipe along Aliso Creek.

"Replacing the pipe is the right project," said Betty Burnett, assistant general manager and district counsel for the South Coast Water District, which is one of the four agencies including the city of Laguna that are participating in the project.

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"It is environmentally responsible sewage handling," she added.

The $4.2 million project will be funded by the city and the South Coast, Moulton Niguel and Emerald Bay Service districts. Laguna's share is about $1.4 million.

All of Laguna's water flows to the coastal treatment plant in Aliso Canyon that's run by SOCWA and the separated solid waste — commonly called sludge — is piped uphill from the coast to the regional plant near the intersection La Paz and Crown Valley Parkway in Laguna Niguel.

Opponents of the project urged the council to pass on the project in favor of waiting until a permanent solution could be devised.

The group had met with scientists and engineers at UC Irvine and with wastewater authority representatives to bolster their position that parkland is no place for sludge conveyance.

"What we need is a plan that looks to eliminate from the canyon both the utility pipes and the coastal treatment plant or upgrading it," said Ginger Osborne, who said she spoke on behalf of a number of community members.

"We suggest that the City Council ask SOCWA to develop a master plan and we would like to offer our energy and enthusiasm to this effort," she added.

Osborne said future regulations will require changes in how sewage is processed and technology is being developed that will process sewage in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive way.

However, former district General Manager Mike Dunbar said immediate action was required.

"This is a solution that needs to happen," Dunbar said. "A long-term solution to upgrade the treatment plant is not going to happen immediately."

Waiting to upgrade the plant would have involved trucking the sludge, crossing a bridge to gain access to Alicia Parkway that SOCWA has been advised is problematic.

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