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Atherton water capture facility will require scrutiny

As Atherton moves ahead with designing a $13.6 million grant-funded project to capture runoff water on its way to the Bay to prevent flooding and remove pollutants, questions about problems the system and its construction could pose are surfacing.

The City Council on Nov. 1 approved contracts for the preliminary design, but also heard about problems the facility might pose.

Bob Roeser, chair of the town's Park and Recreation Committee, said while he supports the project, he has spoken to people who don't think it belongs in Holbrook-Palmer Park. He has heard complaints about "handling toxic materials in the kids' park," he said, and questions about what will happen to the contaminants removed from the water.

Councilman Bill Widmer asked a similar question: "Are we creating a hazardous waste site?"

Mr. Roeser said it's important to make sure the public understands the safeguards that go into the project and exactly what it will do.

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"I'm all for the project, don't get me wrong," he said. "This is a really positive thing to do."

Mr. Roeser said the construction process will probably be "the biggest problem with it." None of the park roads or bridges can handle large trucks, he said. The town will have to address how to "fix all the things" that get damaged by construction, he said.

Residents also worry about not being able to use the park during construction, he said.

Once the facility is running, large trucks will probably continue to use the park to remove the pollutants that are filtered out, he said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis said the questions can't be answered yet. "It's not been planned. It has to be designed," she said.

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The council has repeatedly said that it will pull out of the deal if it finds the maintenance and upkeep of the facility are too expensive. The preliminary design should be completed by next April, and the council will then decide if it wants to go forward with the project.

"It's critical that we have the ability to back out of this," Councilman Rick DeGolia said. "I'm not negative on the project," he said. "I feel proud that Atherton's been chosen to do this."

However, he said, "we have to look carefully at what it does to our community and the crown jewel of our community, which is our park."

The facility would help Atherton, and Caltrans which passed the grant on to the town to meet their share of a regional goal for lowering pollutants going into the Bay.

At the Nov. 1 meeting the council voted unanimously to pay up to $550,000 to Tetra Tech Inc. to prepare preliminary plans for the facility. The council also voted to pay Interwest Consulting Group, the firm that currently does most of the town's engineering and building department work, up to $136,200 to manage the project. (All the costs will be paid by the grant.)

Tetra Tech is working on several similar projects in Southern California.

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Atherton water capture facility will require scrutiny

by Barbara Wood / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 8:44 am

As Atherton moves ahead with designing a $13.6 million grant-funded project to capture runoff water on its way to the Bay to prevent flooding and remove pollutants, questions about problems the system and its construction could pose are surfacing.

The City Council on Nov. 1 approved contracts for the preliminary design, but also heard about problems the facility might pose.

Bob Roeser, chair of the town's Park and Recreation Committee, said while he supports the project, he has spoken to people who don't think it belongs in Holbrook-Palmer Park. He has heard complaints about "handling toxic materials in the kids' park," he said, and questions about what will happen to the contaminants removed from the water.

Councilman Bill Widmer asked a similar question: "Are we creating a hazardous waste site?"

Mr. Roeser said it's important to make sure the public understands the safeguards that go into the project and exactly what it will do.

"I'm all for the project, don't get me wrong," he said. "This is a really positive thing to do."

Mr. Roeser said the construction process will probably be "the biggest problem with it." None of the park roads or bridges can handle large trucks, he said. The town will have to address how to "fix all the things" that get damaged by construction, he said.

Residents also worry about not being able to use the park during construction, he said.

Once the facility is running, large trucks will probably continue to use the park to remove the pollutants that are filtered out, he said.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis said the questions can't be answered yet. "It's not been planned. It has to be designed," she said.

The council has repeatedly said that it will pull out of the deal if it finds the maintenance and upkeep of the facility are too expensive. The preliminary design should be completed by next April, and the council will then decide if it wants to go forward with the project.

"It's critical that we have the ability to back out of this," Councilman Rick DeGolia said. "I'm not negative on the project," he said. "I feel proud that Atherton's been chosen to do this."

However, he said, "we have to look carefully at what it does to our community and the crown jewel of our community, which is our park."

The facility would help Atherton, and Caltrans which passed the grant on to the town to meet their share of a regional goal for lowering pollutants going into the Bay.

At the Nov. 1 meeting the council voted unanimously to pay up to $550,000 to Tetra Tech Inc. to prepare preliminary plans for the facility. The council also voted to pay Interwest Consulting Group, the firm that currently does most of the town's engineering and building department work, up to $136,200 to manage the project. (All the costs will be paid by the grant.)

Tetra Tech is working on several similar projects in Southern California.

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