Stressing that a proposed water treatment facility for the City of Santa Monica is in their community within Los Angeles City limits, Mar Vista Community Council members want to make sure that their concerns about the project are addressed.

The Community Council voted September 25th to approve a list of comments and recommendations in response to the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for Santa Monica’s proposed Charnock Well Field Restoration Project.

Santa Monica plans to construct a facility to treat water from the Charnock Well Field in Los Angeles that was contaminated with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE). The facility would be built on Santa Monica Water Division property near the Windward School in Mar Vista and include about 15 treatment tanks standing 20 feet above the ground. The private school is at 11350 Palms Blvd.

The project would allow Santa Monica to remove the gasoline additive in the water and restore the well field as a drinking water supply for residents. Santa Monica city officials had initially prepared a mitigated negative declaration, which can be adopted instead of an EIR, for the project, but later requested the EIR after much public comment.

“There was a plethora of questions, so we thought that to be fair to everyone in the community, we would address those questions in a full-blown EIR,” said Spiros Lazaris, Charnock Well Field project manager.

Mar Vista Community Council first vice chair Albert Olson noted that council members were pleased to learn that an EIR would be conducted after they opposed a mitigated negative declaration.

“I was pleased when Santa Monica decided to do the EIR because it seemed that they listened to the community and decided to respect their wishes,” Olson said.

But after reviewing the draft EIR, Mar Vista Community Council members said they believed no major changes were made from the original proposal, which drew several community concerns. The Community Council held the special meeting late last month to ensure that its comments were submitted for the October 1st deadline.

Lazaris said that while the negative declaration didn’t propose project alternatives, the EIR calls for four of them.

In a letter to Lazaris, Community Council members said the well field project is “imposing a great burden” on Mar Vista, and Santa Monica officials need to be responsive to surrounding community needs.

One primary suggestion by Mar Vista is that Santa Monica consider finding alternative sites within the city itself for the facility.

“We’re still hoping that Santa Monica can find a way to build this facility somewhere in Santa Monica,” Olson said. “If there are impacts, then it makes sense for the impacts to be dealt with by the City of Santa Monica.”

According to the draft EIR, relocating the facility to an alternative site is considered to be infeasible because it requires that the infrastructure be substantially modified.

Community Council chair Rob Kadota has said the council supports Santa Monica’s effort to restore its local water source but wants to ensure that the project is safe for the Mar Vista community.

Another major concern of the council relates to potential aesthetic impacts with the 20-foot high tanks being built across the street from residential neighborhoods.

Council members say there are ways to mitigate the visual impacts, including burying the tanks underground. Santa Monica city staff has suggested reducing the visual impact of saltwater wells on Santa Monica beach by burying the wells, and Mar Vista residents say the same consideration should be given them.

Among the other main project concerns of Mar Vista residents are noise issues with the construction and increased traffic by construction trucks traveling through the neighborhood. The council has recommended finding an alternate route.

Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl has also expressed project concerns in a letter to Lazaris, saying he was disappointed that an alternative site was considered infeasible without consideration of specific sites in Santa Monica.

“There remain significant unresolved issues of environmental safety, water rights, traffic, noise and aesthetics,” Rosendahl wrote in the letter. “This project would intensify the uses on the site and, as a result, have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of the residential community in which the project is located.”

The councilman also requested that the project be submitted to Los Angeles’s permit process.

Lazaris noted that Santa Monica staff has met to discuss the project with Rosendahl and received input from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Santa Monica staff plans to review the public comments on the EIR and will work to address the concerns, he said.

“We need to take a good look at them and we will respond to them as prudently as possible,” Lazaris said. “I’m pretty sure we will come back with something that’s mutually beneficial to both [sides].”

The Santa Monica City Council is scheduled to address the Charnock Well Field EIR at its meeting Tuesday, November 25th.

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