Valley Center

SDG&E's End to Controversial Groundwater Pumping in Valley Center Pushed Back Another Day

San Diego County ordered SDG&E to stop pumping ground water from four sites near Cole Grade Road nearly two weeks ago because the company was not permitted to do the work. SDG&E says they can't stop yet, upsetting neighbors

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To mitigate fire risk in the Keys Creek community SDG&E started construction in April to place underground powerlines along Cole Grade Road.

The company thought they’d be removing about 13,000 gallons of ground water for 6 to 8 days, but since dewatering began on May 31, SDG&E said they’ve been removing way more than even the company anticipated.

“We anticipate that dewatering at the two bore pits will stop by July 1, but we need to ensure a safe demobilization. Therefore, this date could move,” SDG&E spokesman Robert Ieezza said in a statement Tuesday.

Neighbors are concerned SDG&E is pulling water from their wells.

“We have been noticing a significant difference in our water level dropping,” neighbor Kristen Bazata said. “Gravity works, so gravity is literally pulling the water down as they are pulling the water up and out from the location.”

We requested data from SDG&E last Friday to see how much water has been taken, per day from all four sites. SDG&E said they are still analyzing and verifying the data.

"Our ongoing analysis includes a plan to send the flow meters back to the manufacturer for third-party verification once dewatering is complete and they can be removed.  It is unclear at this time how long this process will take, but it is part of our commitment to provide the most accurate information possible," Ieezza said.

Neighbors have been monitoring the project by taking meter readings and photos of where the water trucks are going. They estimate the company has taken hundreds of thousands of gallons a day.

“We know about the five 18-gallon tanks that are down off Valley Center Road,” Bazata said. “We know they have been taking it to a farm up the road here and we also believe they may be taking it somewhere to dump it at this time because they don’t have anywhere to put it.”

The company confirmed the water was initially transported to Corona for discharge because it could not be used for construction or dust control. SDG&E has also stored water with a local landowner permitted to take it.

Neighbors want the water put back, but the company said they found high levels of nitrate and must get a permit to treat the water before it can be discharged to land.

Wednesday, the testing laboratory Eurofins was onsite collecting samples from one of the onsite water tanks.

They’ve just decided to pump out all of the water without any sort of concern for the effects on the community

Steve Kramp, Valley Center Resident

“Eurofin is providing water testing as part of a permit application we are filing with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to inject the water back into the creek,” Iezza said.

On June 18, San Diego County Public Works issued a stop-work order because SDG&E’s excavation permit did not include dewatering operations. The company says they had to continue with dewatering efforts to maintain the integrity of the pits and the road.

“They’re digging near a creek. You’ve got to expect there’s gonna be a little bit of water there and instead, they’ve just decided to pump out all of the water without any sort of concern for the effects on the community," neighbor Steve Kramp said.

“On June 10 and 11, 2021, we drilled two wells for dewatering and monitoring.  These wells were approximately 2 feet wide and 40 feet deep.  We stopped dewatering of the wells on June 21 and 22, and both wells have recharged to pre-construction levels since then.  While we are completing safe demobilization at the site, we are still dewatering from the two bore pits.  On June 25, approximately 46,000 gallons of water were removed from these two bore pits. On June 28, approximately 46,000 gallons of water were removed from these two bore pits,” Iezza said.

Neighbors are concerned the company’s dewatering could compromise the environment.

“The county has sought to protect and preserve some of the historic oaks along our property, so we’re really concerned about the ground water being taken out,” Elisabeth Kramp said.

SDG&E said they are sending a hydrologist to check neighbor’s wells. Neighbors who expressed concerns should get a letter by the end of the week.  

The entire project is expected to be complete by November 15, 2022.

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