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Posts Tagged ‘SDG&E’

PUD responds on SDG&E use of potable water for construction

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 17, 2011

A Public Utilities Department memorandum was sent November 7 to the San Diego City Council Natural Resources and Culture Committee (NR&C) in response to San Carlos resident John Pilch’s complaints about SDG&E taking massive amounts of potable water from neighborhood fire hydrants for use in the Sunrise PowerLink construction project and tearing up the streets in the process.

The memo has not been posted on the city’s website but a copy seen elsewhere is reprinted in full below, formatted as closely to the original as possible. A link will be added here if the city posts the memo online.

According to Kevin C. Smith, Chief of Policy for Councilmember David Alvarez, the matter did not appear on the November 9 NR&C agenda (nor will it be in the minutes) because it is a reponse to nonagenda public comment from the September meeting.


DATE: November 7, 2011
TO: Members of the Natural Resources and Culture Committee
FROM: Alex Ruiz, Assistant Public Utilities Director – Business Support Branch
SUBJECT: Use of Temporary Fire Hydrant Construction Meters/SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink

At the September 28, 2011, meeting of the Natural Resources and Culture Committee, nonagenda public comment was taken from Mr. John Pilch, a resident of the San Carlos community. Mr. Pilch’s comments centered on an objection to private water trucks filling up at fire hydrants in the San Carlos community. These private water trucks are providing water for the SDG&E Sunrise Powerlink construction project, currently underway in the east county. Particular objections articulated by Mr. Pilch included:

1) The use of drinking water for construction purposes, especially since the City just ended its drought declaration;

2) The increased volume of trucks (5-12) parked on Lake Murray Blvd waiting to fill up;

3) The damage to roadways, and associated nuisance these trucks cause in the

Mr. Pilch requested an investigation by City Council to see what permits were required prior to the use of the fire hydrants and to confirm there are “no other ways to handle this.” He also noted that recycled water in Santee could easily be accessed and suggested that the trucks be directed there for their water supply needs. Finally, Mr. Pilch wanted SDG&E to immediately cease and desist until a new plan is developed.
The Public Utilities Department provides the following in response to the issues raised.

1. Use of Drinking Water of Construction Purposes

The use of drinking water from a temporary fire hydrant connection is consistent with existing Council policy, department policy and practice. The City recognizes that in order to meet dust suppression, soil compaction and other construction site regulations, water is needed. This water is usually supplied through a fire hydrant meter since there is typically no existing water infrastructure in place at these construction sites. The decision as to where a contractor fills up water trucks is not something the Public Utilities Department has control over, unless it creates an impact to the water system itself. In this case, there are no issues associated with the water
system. The water used by construction contractors is metered and billed consistent with other utility customers.

Mr. Pilch raised concern that the City’s recent drought experience should necessitate a restriction on the use of fire hydrant meters. However, we note that the current Municipal Code provisions associated with Emergency Water Regulations (SDMC 67.3801-3811) only limit the availability of fire hydrant meters at a “Level 3” Drought Emergency.

2. Increased Volume of Trucks Waiting to Fill Up on Lake Murray

In an effort to partially address these concerns, contractors working on behalf of SDG&E, recently requested the installation of fire hydrant meters at three different locations: Lake Murray and Lake Alamor (near the intersection of Jackson and Lake Murray); Bisby Lake and Bashan Lake; and Bisby Lake and Lake Gaby Ave. These last two locations are behind the Albertson’s grocery store located at 8650 Lake Murray Blvd.. These three meters will be larger in size and therefore capable of flowing more water quickly and more reliably than the two existing smaller fire hydrant meters. This should reduce the number of trucks waiting to fill up at any given time.

3. The Damage to Roadways, and Associated Nuisance

SDG&E and its contractors have committed to repairing any damage, if any, caused by
contracted water trucks to the Lake Murray Boulevard Frontage Road upon completion of the Sunrise Powerlink project in mid-2012.

Further, SDG&E and its contractors will commit to repairing the area of Lake Murray Boulevard Frontage Road and Lake Aldon Drive and the area of Lake Murray Boulevard Frontage Road and Jackson Drive on a quarterly basis for the duration of the project.

Truck traffic is a nuisance. This is an issue wherever fire hydrant meters are installed. However, this nuisance is balanced against the ability to provide private contractor access to water in order to meet construction site regulations and other requirements. The Fire Hydrant Construction Meter program is administered with this balance in mind.

Additional Response

The Public Utilities Department has reviewed the records associated with the provision of fire hydrant meters in the San Carlos area. In each instance, fire hydrant meters were provided consistent with existing policy and fully met all criteria, including payment of fees and charges. The Department processes approximately 450 similar fire hydrant meter requests per year Citywide.

Finally, Mr. Pilch suggests that the contractor use recycled water available from the Padre Dam Municipal Water District (Padre Dam) located in the City of Santee. It is our understanding that SDG&E has discussed the use of recycled water provided by Padre Dam, and that at least initial information indicated recycled water could be available for use by SDG&E. However, we are not aware of the specifics regarding this discussion, and the City does not have the ability to deny water service based on the availability of water through an alternate service provider.

We also note that SDG&E has proposed utilizing a recycled water “filling station” which would be constructed, at their cost, at the City’s South Bay Water Reclamation Plant. SDG&E’s consultant submitted plans and an engineering report covering their proposed filling station and recycled water use sites throughout the County. The plans and engineering report have been approved by the Public Utilities Department, County Department of Environmental Health and State Department of Public Health. As of October 2011, SDG&E has the following outstanding items to complete prior to constructing the Recycled Water Fill Station:

  • Building Permit along with environmental clearance from the City of San Diego
    Development Services Department (DSD). City staff members have completed their
    reviews for the Building Permit, including environmental reviews. All the reviewers
    have signed off; however, a Building Permit has not been issued. SDG&E will need to
    pay fees before a permit will be issued.
  • Right of Entry Permit to use the City Facilities from City of San Diego Real Estate Assets Department. SDG&E is currently conducting a second review of the permit related

Concurrently, SDG&E is applying for a waiver from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, as their recycled water use isn’t covered by the City’s Master Reclamation Permit since they are using the water outside our approved hydrologic basins, essentially outside the City of San Diego limits. Still pending is SDG&E’s submission of a “Notice of Intent” to enroll under the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s waiver program and the Regional Board’s approval of the waiverapplication.

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to the concerns raised. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Alex Ruiz
Assistant Public Utilities Director
Business Support Branch

Jay Goldstone, Chief Operating Officer
Roger S. Bailey, Director of Public Utilities
Almis Udrys, Deputy Director, Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations
Jim Fisher, Assistant Public Utilities Department Director – Water Operations Branch


Posted in Water | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

SDG&E quietly removes disputed Sunrise Powerlink “water filling station” in the San Carlos area of San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 17, 2011

Last spring we learned via John Pilch (President, San Carlos Area Council–SCAC) that SDG&E was filling water tanker trucks from street fire hydrants for use as construction water for the Sunrise Powerlink Project, and more recently, that they had expanded the operation with construction of a “water filling station” behind a San Carlos shopping center (click here for the filling station story) to fill even more tanker trucks.

Mr. Pilch raised questions about the use of large quantities of potable water instead of recycled water for construction purposes; street damage and neighborhood traffic from 50,000-pound trucks; whether legal permits existed for the water filling station; and more.

SDG&E officials, city council representatives, the mayor’s office, and other city officials were repeatedly contacted by Mr. Pilch. In addition there was a story by the Union-Tribune and a followup on this blog. Still, to this day, there was either no response from officials or simple stonewalling.

Now it would appear Mr. Pilch’s perseverence is starting to pay off. He reports that Saturday afternoon the “truck-filling water depot” was removed. He describes that development in an email sent today to SCAC members:

After learning from Captain Ahearn of Eastern Division that Neighborhood Code Compliance (NCC) would not discuss their “investigation” with anyone other than the complainant, I did my own investigation and then filed a complaint with NCC. This began with a call to the Planning Dept., where I learned the entire property was zoned Commercial CC-1-3. I then reviewed the Muni Code section that deals with this zone and found that Trucking and Transportation Terminals are not permitted at all in this zone. I then checked with the Development Services Department and learned that no permits have been issued for the 8700 Block of Navajo Rd. Thus, a Complaint in my name was filed on October 7, 2011, with a request for a Cease and Desist Order, based on the Municipal Code.

A call was then placed to the Property Management company and I was referred to the Soltis company in Los Angeles. Several calls were exchanged and I finally reached Elizabeth Griggs, the person in charge of the San Carlos Village property. She told me they were told by someone (didn’t know who) that no permit was needed. I corrected that idea and told her that I was following up with NCC to have this shut down. Ms. Griggs indicated that only six trucks made a daily trip from this site. I corrected that and advised her that at least six trucks came and went all day, polluting the air and creating a noisy environment within 100 feet of residences. She was not happy nor pleasant and our conversation ended.

The bottom line is an investment of about 30-60 minutes was all it took for me to gather the needed information, file the NCC Complaint, make a few phone calls and get this illegal operation shut down. I’ve heard nothing from NCC or Marti Emerald’s office about their investigation or my complaint. Please note that NCC has had the case “under investigation” since September 7, 2011, with no notice that a decision had been made.

We now move back to our original problem of water trucks on the Lake Murray West Frontage Road. The City and SDG&E has advised that they will have the roadways repaired. However, that won’t stop the trucks from continuing to use Jackson Drive as their route to Navajo and then to SR-125. Neither seem to be interested in the environmental issues, with increased air pollution from the diesel exhaust and increased truck traffic through San Carlos, now that the site behind Ralph’s is closed. These same trucks have damaged the roadway on Jackson Drive, where they stop at the Stop signs at Twin Lake Dr. This is the intersection where children cross Jackson Dr. to get to and from Benchley-Weinberger School. All the City and SDG&E have to do is re-route the trucks back onto Lake Murray Blvd. by making a left turn off the West Frontage Road at Jackson Dr. Please note that the truck traffic, emissions and roadway damage were not included in the Environmental Impact Report for the SDG&E Southwest Powerlink. Thus, we’ll continue to work on this. If you’re not happy with the trucks in San Carlos, please consider sending an e-mail to Councilmember Marti Emerald at and to Todd Vorhees at SDG&E at

Discontinuation of the “filling station” operation raises the question, of course, whether additional water tanker truck traffic will now be going to the street fire hydrants and whether additional hydrants will be involved.

[Nov 3: the answers to the above questions are “yes” and “yes”]

Posted in Water | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

San Diego’s water supply vs. the mayor and SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink project

Posted by George J Janczyn on September 22, 2011

After experiencing a wet winter, most of California’s reservoirs are brimming and many people are relaxing their guard about water use — including Mayor Sanders. The mayor decided that San Diego’s reservoirs are in such good shape that the city can afford to draw down its reserves so that it won’t have to buy as much imported water from the County Water Authority which has scheduled a rate increase for January 2012. That decision allowed him to announce that the city will not impose a pass-through increase to the city’s customers this year.

Of course all the mayor has done is defer the pass-through increase until the following year (and that will be compounded by a likely further rate increase from the County Water Authority at that time). City residents should expect a doozy of an increase in 2013.

Whether the reservoir drawdown is a wise decision in the overall scheme of things remains to be seen.

Meanwhile SDG&E’s Sunrise Powerlink project has also been helping to draw down San Diego’s drinking water reserves.

The original plan, according to documents filed by SDG&E, was to use mostly reclaimed water for its construction needs. SDG&E’s 2010 Final Project Modification Report says:

“…the majority of the water for construction of the Sunrise Powerlink can be supplied by reclaimed water purveyors in San Diego County, which would minimize impacts to local potable water supply. Using reclaimed water is consistent with MMCRP Measure S‐3B directing SDG&E to use reclaimed water where possible.”

“SDG&E has initiated the application process for obtaining reclaimed water from the City of San Diego…SDG&E’s current plan for water use in San Diego County is to utilize the reclaimed water from the City of San Diego as the primary source…”

But there seems to be no reclaimed water being used at all.

Earlier this year, John Pilch (President of the San Carlos Area Council) received complaints from residents about water tanker trucks that were hooking up to street fire hydrants in the San Diego neighborhood of San Carlos. He learned that the water was being taken for SDG&E Powerlink construction activities 30 miles away in the local mountains. Pilch began asking questions of city officials and SDG&E and soon attracted the attention of the San Diego U-T which published this story last May.

Pilch also sent this letter to Mayor Sanders but he never got an official response.

Now SDG&E’s operation has expanded with construction of a water “filling station” behind the shopping center at the northeast corner of Lake Murray Blvd and Navajo Road in San Carlos. Two raised water tanks connected to a fire hydrant at the rear of the complex are being used to fill up water tanker trucks that arrive at regular intervals.

The water filling station behind the shopping center.

The hydrant feeding both towers

The water withdrawals from the other fire hydrants in the neighborhood are continuing as well. Two hydrants on Lake Murray Blvd. are presently in use, at Lake Baca and Mono Lake Drives.

It’s been going on for months and neighborhood residents are concerned about the water usage and damage to the street (the people I spoke with didn’t want me to use their names). During a one-hour period I observed tanker trucks roll in every ten minutes or so at the “filling station” alone. John Pilch says that one of the drivers told him the trucks typically carry about 6,000 gallons. The project documentation estimates that 300,000 gallons per day of San Diego’s water is being taken for the Powerlink project. So far it’s all been drinking water.

The Sunrise Powerlink newsletter published in Oct 2010 boasted that SDG&E is “Preserving a Precious Resource” and quotes SDG&E’s Alan Colton (Environmental Services Manager) saying “The protection of our region’s water resources is a priority for SDG&E. We would like to use reclaimed water for all construction work along the 117 mile route of the project.”

San Diego City District 7 Councilmember Marti Emerald’s office has been trying to learn what went wrong.

Emerald’s Policy Analyst Mary Ann Wallace provided me with a copy of an April 7 email message from the Public Utilities Department (PUD) that stated “SDG&E has been offered recycled water, from our recycled system, and raw untreated water, from City owned reservoirs/pipelines for their Sunrise Powerlink project. However, both water sources require filling stations to be designed, permitted/approved as appropriate, and constructed. To date, SDG&E has decided to truck potable water from the City to rural SD County. (emphasis mine)

The PUD email from Jesus Meda, Deputy Director of Systems Operations went into some detail about the options available to SDG&E:

Recycled Water Service

The Public Utilities Recycled Water Section has been working with SDG&E and their consultants (Nolte Engineering and Geosyntec), since January 2010, on the Sunrise Powerlink Recycled Water Fill Station proposed at the City’s South Bay Reclamation Plant. Nolte Engineering has completed the design plans for the Recycled Water Fill Station to the satisfaction of the Public Utilities Department. As of April 2011, SDG&E has the following outstanding items to complete prior to constructing the Recycled Water Fill Station:

• Engineering Report approval from California Department of Public Health for the distribution and use of recycled water.
• Grading and Building Permit along with environmental clearance from the City of San Diego Development Services Department.
• Right of Entry Permit to use the City Facilities from City of San Diego Real Estate Assets Department.

In addition, SDG&E must also receive Regional Water Quality Control Board approval, as the construction sites where the recycled water would be applied are not covered by the City’s Master Reclamation Permits. We do not yet have a schedule from SDG&E for these outstanding activities.

Raw Untreated Water Service

Public Utilities Water Operations staff had identified some potential points of raw water delivery for SDG&E, including Barrett and Morena Reservoirs and the El Capitan Pipeline. Public Utilities staff met with representatives from SDG&E, in December 2010, at both reservoir sites (Barrett and Morena). SDG&E expressed interest in purchasing raw water from Barrett Reservoir, since that location would have limited impact on the public, more space for their water system installation and better turn around areas for their water trucks. However, SDG&E has not provided the City with the requested design plan submittals and water delivery schedule for review and approval. These items are needed prior to construction of the required raw water filling stations and subsequent raw water service. We do not yet have a schedule from SDG&E for these outstanding activities.

It would appear that SDG&E simply balked at having to comply with the regulatory process for using reclaimed or raw water, and decided that it was under no obligation to have a filling station “designed, permitted/approved as appropriate” if said station was located on private property (the shopping center) and taking drinking water as opposed to reclaimed or raw.

According to Laura McDonald, Director, Public Affairs and Project Communications at SDG&E, they have a construction water permit for taking city water from the fire hydrants, but as for the “filling station” water tank towers at the shopping center, she said “that was the first I’ve heard of that.” She promised to look into it and let me know. I’ll post an update here if something interesting comes out of that.

The trucks have been driving about 30 miles east on I-8 to Japatul Valley Road, then on Bell Bluff Truck Trail to an area where SDG&E is building the Suncrest Substation.

Interestingly, the anti-fluoridation group Citizens for Safe Drinking Water is also located on Bell Bluff Truck Trail.

Empty tanker truck exits Bell Bluff Truck Trail to Japatul Valley Road on its way back to San Carlos

The residents at that intersection don't seem to be pleased.


[There’s a new development. Click here for an Oct 17 followup.]


Posted in Water | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Another power outage scheduled for Navajo area of San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 22, 2010

SDG&E has announced another planned power outage for the western side of San Carlos near Del Cerro and Lake Murray. Electricity will be shut off at approximately 11:00pm Friday, June 4, 2010 and will stay off for up to 7 hours or longer. SDG&E indicates they need to replace an electrical switch.

Over 1000 residences mostly east of Park Ridge Blvd. and south of Navajo Road & Jackson Drive will be affected. Letters to affected residents were mailed May 21.

The same area had its power cut off last December 5, 2009 starting at 10:30pm in order to replace an electrical switch. Service was not restored until 9am the following morning.

When I called SDG&E’s planned outage number at 800-211-7343 to ask why we’re having to deal with another outage so soon for the same reason, I was told that the previous work was either done incorrectly or else some equipment was defective.

SDG&E’s power outage website is but it appears to lack any information about planned outages.


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SDG&E “smart meters” being rolled out in the Navajo area

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 1, 2010

San Diego Gas & Electric will soon be replacing all electric and gas meters in the Navajo area in San Diego. The current schedule shows San Carlos, Del Cerro, and Allied Gardens upgrades will take place April through June of this year. Residents are supposed to receive a notification letter several weeks in advance.

The new “smart meters” record energy use information and have two-way communication between the meter and SDG&E. All residents will receive a new meter — it is not an optional upgrade. Information, including an interactive map, is available from SDG&E’s website.


From SDG&E’s website: “Smart meters are digital meters with two-way communication that send energy use information to SDG&E. In the future, electric energy use will be recorded every hour at your home and every 15 minutes at your business. Natural gas information will be available on a daily basis. This information can help you understand how you are using energy so you can make money-saving and environmentally friendly changes.”

Once the smart meter is installed, residents will be able to see hourly updates on their energy usage via the Internet. The meters can be connected to a Home Area Network to control home digital devices such as home security systems, appliances, temperature controls, etc.

SDG&E will no longer need to send meter readers to record your energy usage; that information will automatically be sent from the new unit.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that there have been problems with television sets disabled when a new meter was installed. Reportedly, some older model televisions are susceptible to the power being turned off and back on again.

Residents are advised to unplug sensitive electronic and electrical devices before technicians shut off the power to replace the old meter.

Faulty SDG&E smart meters replaced / SignOnSanDiego — “Some of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.’s new smart meters turned out to be not so smart last week. They got confused during a software update, cut power to customers and stopped communicating with the company.” – May 21, 2010

The Associated Press ran this story describing concerns that smart meters have security holes and are vulnerable to being hacked.

This San Diego Reader article speculates on SDG&E’s motives in rolling out the new meters.


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Power outage scheduled for parts of Del Cerro and San Carlos on Saturday

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 2, 2009

SDG&E mailed notices on November 19, but just as a reminder or if you missed it, a power outage will occur in the San Carlos/Del Cerro area this Saturday beginning at approximately 10:30pm and may last up to eight hours (or longer if complications develop).

I’m not looking forward to spending a Saturday night without electricity.

According to Karen Bennett, SDG&E’s Planned Outage Coordinator, about 2000 residents will be affected by the routine maintenance project to replace an electrical switch and underground wiring on Park Ridge Blvd. She couldn’t provide details on the affected area but said it extends slightly west but mostly east into San Carlos from Park Ridge Blvd.

Residents have been advised to disconnect sensitive electrical equipment before and during the outage. Assuming that when power resumes it may not immediately be stable, you may want to call their 24-hour contact line to confirm status before reconnecting equipment at 800-211-7343.

Update Dec 6: The power resumed at about 9am, so it was around 10 hours without power for us. This morning the work crew wouldn’t let me take any pictures, saying that someone took pictures at an earlier job and then submitted them to the local news with negative comments about their work. I’ll bet our local politicians wish they could avoid scrutiny for that reason.

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