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December 2000: The Military Engineer


Some 12 miles south of downtown San Diego, a junkyard filled with autos and contaminated with hazardous waste materials is now in the process of being transformed into a state-of-the-art pump station, and a community park. The Grove Avenue Pump Station (GAPS) project not only fulfills critical infrastructure needs but also contributes to environmental and aesthetic desires expressed by members of surrounding communities.

Residents in the city's South Bay and Otay Mesa Nestor regions had long complained about the site and its contamination. When the city's Metropolitan Wastewater Department (MWWD) announced the former auto-wrecking yard would become the site of a new wastewater pump station, residents were delighted, but also understandably concerned.

From 1996 through 1998, Berryman and Henigar and MWWD worked closely with a representative group of citizens known as the South Bay Focus Group (SBFG). Another public agency, the Tia Juana Valley Water District, which serves about 20,000 people in the region, also participated. Together, city officials, residents, and Berryman and Henigar addressed engineering, environmental and artistic issues during many public sessions.

David Gomez, SBFG chairman, said, "the public outreach campaign was key to the success of the project. I own a horse ranch in Nestor, located in the Tijuana River Valley not far from the pump station. As an active community member I have a vested interest in all MWWD projects in the region. We worked closely with them throughout the project to ensure that the local environment, including Nestor Creek, would be protected. This included making sure that all flooding concerns in the area were properly addressed."

Likewise, Art Letter, general manager of the Tia Juana Valley Water District, said his agency worked with MWWD and SBFG on design concepts. "One of our chief concerns was the odor issue," Letter said. "This was rectified with an innovative odor control system design, consisting of a biofilter with a redundant conventional chemical treatment scrubber system."

In addition to working with local public agencies and focus groups, MWWD made scores of presentations to other community groups and to homeowners. More than 16,000 brochures were mailed to residents in the Otay Mesa/Nestor, Tijuana River Valley and San Ysidro areas inviting them to attend an 'open house' that featured various MWWD officials who fielded inquiries about the pump station. MWWD staff also talked with owners and managers of adjacent apartment complexes about the project.

The city had the foresight to acquire land adjacent to the site, creating a buffer between the pump station and neighboring communities. The buffer zone is going to incorporate public art by local artist, Roberto Salas. "Based on conversations with community leaders, we decided to focus on the indigenous past of the region and its people," Salas said. "I also wanted to design something that was family-oriented."

The work in progress, slated for completion next spring, is a park-like setting constructed around a sand-covered medallion with a walkway lined by four steles (upright stone slabs or pillars bearing inscriptions or designs). Another 12 steles will be placed around the perimeter of the site. The steles will also serve as monumental landmarks visible to freeway traffic.

The steles will be 12 feet high, inscribed with various designs. The site's hub is the medallion, sunken slightly in a round, 21-foot diameter sandbox (the sand materials being used will not attract cats). Beneath the sand will be images in relief which children can feel with their hands and recognize by touch, much like reading Braille.

The relief images include natural forms shells, leaves, and fish and man-made objects like arrowheads and pottery that are used to introduce archaeological clues. Earth berms will be incorporated into the landscaping; their placement, according to Salas, is designed to complement entryways and exits.

In addition to working in concert with local public agencies and community groups to select the pump station site and pipeline alignment, MWWD also incorporated mitigation measures into the design of the pump station. These included:

  • Minimizing construction community impact (e.g., working around the local high school's schedule).
  • Minimizing environmental impact.
  • Creating a park-like buffer zone and incorporating public art into the project.
  • Providing sufficient landscaping around the pump station. Designing an aesthetically appealing building.
  • Adequately addressing problems associated with pump stations such as odor and noise.
  • Constructing a cost-effective state-of-the-art engineered pump station.

GAPS will pump up to 18 million gallons per day of wastewater to the new South Bay Water Reclamation Plant for treatment to become reclaimed water, increasing the area's available water resources. After treatment, the water will be available for purposes other than drinking. The use of reclaimed water has an additional benefit of reducing the flow that's being conveyed through the South Metro Interceptor (which is one of the major sewer systems in the region) to the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The $11.8 million wastewater pump station also includes approximately five miles of forcemains, completed in March, at a cost of approximately $5.8 million.

The Grove Avenue Pump Station, scheduled to be complete next Spring, has been successfully integrated into the community. "Everyone is pleased with the final results. Not only is it a substantial neighborhood improvement, but it will help the South Bay's wastewater infrastructure," said Letter.

Return to: 2000 Feature Stories