The Poseidon Misadventure

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

(LA TImes Photo)

CURE continues to question the environmental and economic benefits of building large ocean desal in California at significant expense to rate payers when less environmental impactful and less expensive options are available. This is particularly the case in Huntington Beach – one of the best surf spots in Southern California.

As background, Poseidon corporation came to California in 1998, after failing to build a private ocean desalination plant in Florida. Poseidon proposed building a large plant and to sell water well below the then market rate.

Twenty years later, the true cost of desal is now known. Poseidon completed a large-scale plant in Carlsbad California for $1.4 billion at a cost of $2,500/AF. The plant, built in the height of the drought, has had operational problems, has failed to provide the promised water, and has spewed toxic discharge into the ocean. Meanwhile, water officials have been able to achieve far less expensive results through recycling and conservation. In other words, what looked economically viable years ago has proven to be a poor choice in today’s market.

Desal also has environmental impacts that cannot be easily mitigated. While other water solutions like recycling storm water runoff benefit the environment and the beach, desal kills fish eggs, larvae and plankton. The process reportedly generates water with high boron levels, a contaminant which reportedly has caused shrinking testicles.

Poseidon now is asking another public agency, the Orange County Water District. to underwrite yet another boondoggle and have hired numerous attorneys, consultants and public relations firms to “carry their water”. Because desal sounds like such a great approach, the public is easily manipulated into supporting a deal that ultimately will cost it far more than other water resources. Simply put, no reason exists to subsidize the most expensive and energy intensive source of water other far more cost-effective options exist.

You can help stop Poseidon once and for all in Huntington Beach. Despite its claims to the contrary, Poseidon needs two key permits from the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board Coastal Commission. CURE will keep you posted on how to weigh in with your local and state officials. Many other cities, including Los Angeles, have rejected these overpriced, low yield and speculative proposals for far more immediate, productive local water investments.

Building Ocean Desalination plants in California has been a long and often torturous path driven by a false premise that these costly, industrial monsters are needed and have little

environmental impact especially on the marine environment. Now, after almost 20 years, a

project in Orange County California’s Huntington Beach has run into another roadblock. The

Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board is one of nine regional water board across the state that are little known to the general public but permit discharge or pollution into the ocean and other water ways.

The Santa Ana Regional Board, made up of 7 governor appointed board members, will decide

how much brine and other chemicals can seep into the ocean from Poisedon’s plant as well as the need for the plant in the first instance. Getting the regional board to strengthen these

requirements was a big step forward for the project opponents.

CURE advocated for these requirements; however, the battle is not over. The latest

developments include Poseidon trying to get the most vocal and informed board member on the SARWQCB replaced. See the attached for more information.

Article written by Conner Everts, Los Angeles Watershed Alliance

with Malissa McKeith

See related news: /2020/09/will-gov-newsom-replace-poseidon-desal-project-critic-on-oc-