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March 17, 2000: Water Online


What was formerly a contaminated auto wrecking yard that twice caught fire and was once an eyesore to the local community is being transformed into a state-of-the-art pump station that not only resolves critical infrastructure needs but is aesthetically pleasing.

The Grove Avenue Pump Station (GAPS) is located near Grove Avenue, just west of Interstate 5, three miles north of the Mexican/U.S. border near San Ysidro, CA, which is about 12 miles south of downtown San Diego. The pump station is scheduled for completion in Spring 2001.

GAPS will pump up to 18 million gallons per day of wastewater to the new South Bay Water Reclamation Plant (SBWRP) for treatment to become reclaimed water. After treatment, this water will be available for local usage for any purpose except drinking which will effectively increase the area's available water resources. This 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. Costs for the forcemains are approximately $5.8 million. The forcemains were completed in March.

While cleaning up the site was a chief concern, there were a number of other issues that had to be addressed by the City of San Diego's Metropolitan Wastewater Department (MWWD). Residents living in the South Bay and Otay Mesa Nestor region had long complained about the site contamination and a number of hazardous waste materials stored at the site.

So when it was announced that a wastewater pump station was replacing the former auto-wrecking yard, local residents were understandably concerned. Beginning in 1996, MWWD and Berryman & Henigar worked closely with a representative group of citizens known as the South Bay Focus Group (SBFG) over a two-year period. Another public agency, the Tia Juana Valley Water District, which serves about 20,000 people in the region, also took an active role. David Gomez, SBFG chairman, indicated that 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," he said. "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."

Art Letter, general manager of the Tia Juana Valley Water District, added that 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 bio-filter 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 local community groups and homeowners. More than 16,000 brochures to residents in the Otay Mesa/Nestor, Tijuana River Valley and San Ysidro area were mailed, inviting them to attend an 'open house' that featured various MWWD officials who fielded inquiries about the pump station. MWWD staff also contacted on-site property owners and managers of adjacent apartment complexes to talk to them about the project.

Concurrent with the community public outreach program was the need to make the pump station site aesthetically pleasing. Fortunately, the City of San Diego had the foresight to incorporate adjacent land necessary for GAPS with the express intent of creating a buffer zone to incorporate public art. A local artist, San Diego-based Roberto Salas, was retained to create an historical theme that best exemplified the region's history.

"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 site's perimeter.

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 seek out and 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 and their placement, according to Salas, is designed to complement entryways and exits.

"The steles will also serve as monumental landmarks visible to freeway traffic," Salas said.

MWWD, in concert with local public agencies and community groups, has been able to effectively work with the community in not only selecting the pump station site and pipeline alignment, but to incorporate mitigation measures into the pump station's design to minimize any impact. In brief these included:

  • Minimizing construction community impact (e.g., working around the local high school's schedule).
  • Minimizing environmental impact.
  • Creating a buffer zone (park-like) 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.

"Everyone is pleased with the final results," said Letter. "The pump station has been successfully integrated into the community. Not only is it a substantial neighborhood improvement, but it will help the South Bay's wastewater infrastructure."

Return to: 2000 Feature Stories