As public information officer of the Cambria Community Services District, my responsibility is to make sure Cambrians get the facts about the Emergency Water Project. They also deserve to know if someone is telling them things that are simply not true.
That brings me to the Sept. 4 Viewpoint piece, “Is facility worth the environmental impact?” by Gordon and Christine Heinrichs, along with 16 other opponents of Cambria’s Emergency Water Supply project.
Right in the first paragraph, the misstatements hit the reader like sand flies swarming up from beached kelp. The project “violates many state and federal laws.” Wrong. (See below for more on this point.) It “is unlikely to produce any water or even be completed.” Wrong on both counts — it is able to produce 300 gallons per minute of clean drinking water, and it is due to be completed in mid-November.
The Viewpoint goes on to get the population of Cambria right. But just about everything after that it gets wrong.
Let’s take the rest of the whoppers one by one:
Heinrichs et al. claim that state and federal agencies have filed comments “detailing the many laws and regulations that this project violates.” Two points need to be made here. First, the project is being built in full compliance with the law under an emergency coastal development permit (CDP). Second, the agency comments are a normal part of the process for working out terms of a permanent CDP. The agencies are exercising due diligence to make sure the project as finally permitted will meet state and federal standards. The CCSD is not violating any laws.
The Viewpoint falsely accuses the CCSD of intentionally deceiving the public with a “sleight of hand” scheme, out of the public eye, to develop the design for a permanent facility. It says an Aug. 14 piece in The Cambrian by CCSD Vice President Gail Robinette and Director Muril Clift “acknowledged” this alleged fact. That is pure fabrication. That piece acknowledges nothing of the sort. I urge Cambrians to read it for themselves to see who is telling the truth here.
“Expect delays,” the Viewpoint says. Why? It gives no evidence to show that the project won’t meet its mid-November construction deadline.
The Viewpoint says the facility will produce a “chemical-laced” brine and “blast it into the air.” The implication is that toxic chemicals will be blown into the air in a dangerously concentrated form. This is false. Nothing will be added to the brine that is toxic. And nearly all of the “chemicals” in it are substances already in the groundwater being processed. To facilitate evaporation, the brine will be sprayed into the pond from horizontal blowers near ground level, noise-shielded and pointing downwind, away from the campgrounds and trails at San Simeon State Park. The brine won’t hurt anybody or — to reference another falsehood in the Viewpoint — endanger anyone’s water supply.
It’s alleged that health agencies have required a tracer test because of the “toxic chemicals” in the brine. And the tracer test will use (implication: lose) 134 acre-feet of scarce water.
The facts are these: The tracer test has nothing to do with the brine or its alleged “toxic chemicals,” and the test will cost Cambrians only about 25 acre-feet in water that is not recycled back to potable-water wells.
And about those chemicals ... I counted the word “toxic” six times in the article, mostly in reference to the brine. “Corrosive” gets thrown in, too. The authors are clearly trying to scare people. What’s truly toxic here, for both civil debate and peace of mind, is fear-mongering misinformation of this sort.
“Water’s not worth the price of this project,” the authors conclude. That’s an opinion and they’re entitled to it, though I have to wonder: If they take our water supply so lightly, will they volunteer to have their own water turned off if they succeed in blocking the project and the drought still goes on?
In any event, as the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it so well, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”