DEL MAR — Comparing it to the plumbing in your house, City Councilwoman Crystal Crawford described a sewer pump station as a critical piece of infrastructure that’s “not sexy, but it’s essential.”
“Believe me, you know when it’s not working,” she said.
During a March 4 groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s new 21st Street sewer pump station, Mayor Richard Earnest said city officials can “only hope” the existing facility will continue working until the new one is up and running.
“It’s truly an exercise in danger to go down there and work,” Earnest said. “It’s difficult and hard to maintain. I know (Public Works Director) David Scherer will sleep better knowing this project is under way.”
The underground pump station, built in the early 1970s, has long since exceeded its 30-year life expectancy. A major failure could result in a significant amount of sewage being discharged into the ocean and lagoons.
The facility is the city’s primary pump station, delivering sewage to the city of San Diego for treatment. It handles flow from the majority of the city, including its largest customer, the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Because any changes in use at the fairgrounds can significantly impact the system, council authorized in 2008 a first-ever wastewater disposal agreement that defines flows from the site to ensure the new station meets projected sewage flow.
Plans to replace the station began in the late 1990s. The new facility was created with input from several city sources, including the Parks and Recreation Department, the Design Review Board — twice — and, to ensure energy efficiency, the Energy Issues Advisory Committee. Project plans call for a new entrance to the adjacent tennis courts and possibly a full basketball court to replace the existing half court, Earnest said.
Most of the $5.5 million project is being funded with a state revolving fund loan, which Del Mar was able to secure because of its AAA bond rating, Earnest said. The revolving program is a federally backed initiative that allows states to offer low-interest loans to help cities comply with federal Clean Water Act requirements.
The city would be reimbursed by the state after paying the contractor. Loan repayment would begin one year after the project is completed. Existing bonds the sewer fund is obligated to repay will be retired in September 2015, resulting in a brief overlap in bond payments.
Construction is expected to take about 18 months. “The contract provides for up to six months of transition between the new station being online and the demolition of old station to make sure all is well and operational issues are not apparent,” Scherer said.