Poseidon’s desalination is a toxic scam
At first glance, desalination seems like a brilliant idea. But turning ocean water into something safe and drinkable on a large scale takes more than a magic wand. It requires hundreds of millions of dollars, huge amounts of energy, and a place to dump the salty sludge created by the process.
The Poseidon company, with foreign capital, has been trying for more than 15 years to make this chimera a reality on the Californian coast. They have now targeted Orange County, promising to turn a highly contaminated site in Huntington Beach into a water plant. But the more I learn about this pattern, the worse the taste it leaves in my mouth. When I saw that Governor Gavin Newsom had joined in pushing him, my stomach turned. The deal that Poseidon offers is not drinkable; it’s toxic. None of us should swallow it.
Poseidon’s sales pitch paints a nice picture of its operations. But the reality is a declaration of war on marine ecology. Its massive suction destroys sea creatures essential to the coastal ecosystem by the millions. It then dumps thousands of gallons of hyper-brackish seawater into the ocean.
And why? Desalination is the most expensive source of water in the world. Orange County ratepayers could be saddled with costs four times higher per gallon than other H2O sources in Southern California. Sure, Poseidon’s investors could pose as villains, but where does this reverse Robin Hood arrangement leave ordinary people? Ordinary customers would spend more money out of pocket on higher bills, take on more utility debt, and face a greater risk of downtime when they can’t pay.
On top of that, any construction at the Huntington Beach site on the Pacific Coast Highway would raise contaminants so harmful that it’s listed as a state toxic hotspot, among the worst 1% in the nation. Who pays for injuries and illnesses that result from residents’ exposure to arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, asbestos and other dreaded airborne compounds from dust carried inland by coastal winds? Property values in Huntington Beach could also take a hit.
Seniors like me need to be on the lookout for scams. Whether it’s phone calls, emails or even knocks on the door, those who seek to play on our fear, our kinship with the vulnerable or our hopes for the next generation in order to take our money can be smart in their scam. The sales pitch of Poseidon and his army of lobbyists to get the money and approval for this desalination plant sets off my alarm bells.
As an immigrant, I have a habit of correcting people who hear me speak with an accent in meetings and therefore assume that I don’t understand what is going on around me. As a parent and grandparent, I’ve heard many excuses over the years and learned to push for the truth. What pisses me off about Poseidon is that their campaign seems to treat me and other Californians as gullible. We need to show them we are NOT, and tell the Governor, State Treasurer, and anyone with a say in this scheme to stop this scam while we still can.
Linda Pérez is a retired school worker, former union president, and health care and environmental advocate. An elected member of the LA County Democratic Party, she lives in Hollywood.
I would like to draw your attention to the third paragraph from the end, beginning with “In addition to that”. This alludes to the problem mentioned briefly on pages 182-183 of the staff report. For more information on this, we can see a letter on file from a March Huntington Beach City Council hearing by Marie Baretich, president of an association of owners of adjacent mobile homes, which I reproduce in full. It starts out as a relatively common objection to building nearby – then it takes a turn that sets it apart from the pack. The parts in bold are the most relevant):
In the past, when AES built its new Generation facility, the 3-acre Newland Street strip of land along Huntington By The Sea Mobile Estates (HBTS) was used as a parking lot and had large field lights in place. AES erected a temporary fabric wall above the block wall along the HBTS community to take care of dust, but not to help with traffic or construction noise.
Lots of traffic from trucks, cars, etc. during construction of the facility.
It is planned, as stated in early reports, that Poseidon will build 33 pumps which will operate 24/7 and the anticipated noise and vibration (as we are all on the Santa Ana River Wetlands) will be quite disruptive. The 2-acre Newland strip will again be used for worker parking. The mobile homes do not have double glazed windows and the expected noise will be overwhelming.
It is understood that the dismantling of two of the old AES units will begin around the same time that Poseidon plans to start work on the desalination plant. This will cause additional traffic. And as you pointed out, the toxic substances located on the land where Poseidon proposes to be built must first be removed before new soils can be brought in to create the 10 to 15 foot elevations against flooding and tsunamis. Walk down Newland to PCH, then up Beach Blvd. will impact residents of HBTS, Cabrillo, and Waterfront RV Park, and will have a very real impact on residents’ ability to evacuate in the event of fire, flood, and earthquake.
The lands in this area are mostly Santa Ana River wetlands, prone to sinking, and are very unstable during earthquake tremors. Poseidon’s proposed pipeline is to pass over Hamilton Street, right next to the Ascon toxic waste landfill and any earthquakes can cause cracks in the cement casing, allowing Ascon’s contaminated water to flow through. be sucked into the pipeline (due to water pressure). . This will bring contaminants into our aquifer. Add boron, neurotoxins from periodic algal blooms, and periodic contaminants from oil spills, and we have “real” potential nightmare situations possible.
The proposed Poseidon facility is in the Coastal Zone (attached). We haven’t heard any recent reports from the Coastal Commission.
There have been no meetings in the past two years with Poseidon, and none in the past with the owners of HBTS or Cabrillo Beachfront Village.
We have an owners association here in Cabrillo. I’m the president here. HBTS revamps its HOA.
Both parks are made up of low- to middle-income homeowners, as well as renters of park-owned homes. These are family parks. The majority of residents are Caucasian. [Ed. note: if this last sentence strikes a jarring note, I don’t think that it’s a statement that Caucasians should be treated better than racial/ethnic minorities, but that in fact they usually are when it comes to environmental justice, and that this is a social class as well as racism issue.]
Many homeowners still have mortgages on top of their rent, utilities, insurance, and home maintenance – just like conventional homes. Owners of the 306-seat HBTS and 45-seat Cabrillo pay between $1,900 and $2,800 for their spaces (not including utilities). Home renters pay between $3300 and $3700.
Marie Jo Baretich
I don’t mean to denigrate traffic and noise concerns by saying that they are quite common when construction projects are proposed; they deserve to be taken seriously, but weighed against competing advantages, perhaps with a view to determining fair compensation for those affected. But — toxic waste, contaminating aquifers, exacerbated by predictable floods and earthquakes? This is not your ordinary NIMBYism! This is the kind of thing that should shake people in the area – and as you’ll see in tomorrow’s episode, in nearby interior regions, in action. May’s Coastal Commission meeting is right around the corner – and the trip from Huntington Beach to Costa Mesa is reasonably quick.
Poseidon will certainly spend money desperately to gain support for his project with all the power he can muster. Will the most numerous opponents, near or far, at least make their own voice heard? We’ll cover why they definitely should tomorrow when we delve deeper into toxic waste issues.