Pleasanton is no longer pursuing potable reuse as a water supply alternative after the City Council voted 3-2 to stop studying the matter with other regional agencies on Tuesday.
In addition to ending Pleasanton's participation in evaluating a regional potable reuse project with the Zone 7 Water Agency, Dublin San Ramon Services District and city of Livermore, among others, the council directed $300,000 from the capital improvement program that was earmarked for more potable water studies be used to treat hazardous per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Well #8, which is owned by the city and currently out of operation.
Councilmembers Kathy Narum and Jack Balch cast the two dissenting votes, preferring to fulfill "to honor our commitment and not renege" on the city's promise to the other agencies.
"I want to be clear that I am not in any way, shape or form ready to sign up for potable reuse," Narum said before voting. "There's far more to the study than just whether or not to do potable reuse or answer the questions about it. It's about making informed decisions and what does the science say."
"At this point, why would we not honor that commitment to our regional partners?" Narum asked.
For the past seven years, the city has participated in numerous water policy roundtables and meetings of the Tri-Valley Water Liaison Committee -- which includes Pleasanton along with the cities of Dublin, Livermore, and San Ramon, as well as Zone 7 Water Agency and DSRSD.
Further study of a regional potable reuse project was approved in 2019, with Pleasanton, Livermore, Zone 7 and DSRSD all supporting joint funding for such efforts at the time. To date, all but Pleasanton have entered task orders for $250,000 each and shared costs of the studies.
Kathleen Yurchak, city director of operations and water utilities, told the council, "The thing that is unique about potable reuse is that we have local control over that particular water supply option. The Delta Conveyance, that is part of the State Water Project; desalination, we have to pipe and get the seawater into the valley, and then also sites reservoir is another infrastructure-related project we would be having to look at."
Mayor Karla Brown wondered why the city is "getting water that isn't as good as our neighbors" and said the $300,000 earmarked for potable water studies would be better spent instead on removing PFAs from local wells.
"If you have a brand new baby, do you want to feed that baby potable reuse water? I don't," Brown said. "(Residents) want quality drinking water and frankly, they deserve it."
Brown added, "Isn't $300,000 a small down payment on $25 to $40 million to remove PFAs? I'm surprised anybody would say anything other than we need to focus on PFAs. This council has to focus on cleaning up our three wells and removing PFAs, and that should be priority number one."
Matt Maciel, who phoned in during the public hearing, said he was "extremely hesitant about using potable reuse."
"The ick factor is just there also -- 'toilet to tap' just does not sound like something I'd ever want to drink, and I don't care what the science says about how clean it is because there's always those unknowns," Maciel said.
Zone 7 Board President Olivia Sanwong said the agency has the ability to advance a potable water study and make decisions on its own.
"However, I personally really do value receiving input from each of our local retailers and partners, and especially value input from my hometown," Sanwong said.
"Headlines right now are forecasting extreme drought by the end of the century, and I think it's really important for the city of Pleasanton to continue with its commitment and be a team player and vote yes on the study to see if it's even feasible and viable for us to do potable reuse," Sanwong added.