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COSTA MESA : Water Reservoir Plan Prompts Lawsuit

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Before it continues with plans to build a 20-million-gallon underground reservoir, the Mesa Consolidated Water District should prepare a thorough environmental impact report, according to a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.

The lawsuit, filed last week by 30 people, many of whom have been critical of the project, asks the court to order the environmental report or stop the reservoir until such a report is done. It also seeks $45,000 in damages, plus attorney fees.

Robert E. Anslow, a Newport Beach attorney who represents the water district, declined to comment on the lawsuit other than to say the water district and its board of directors are aware of it.

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This week, the water district received approval from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to buy land at the old Lindbergh Elementary School site in east Costa Mesa for the reservoir and an aboveground pumping station.

In April, the board decided that the project’s potential environmental effects were so slight that the district did not have to do an environmental impact report. But the suit alleges that the board is legally obligated to have an impact report done on the $15-million project.

Citizens allege that the board has not considered important facts relating to the environment and the health of neighbors of the reservoir site. They insist that a full report on the project’s environmental impact would confirm their fears about the project.

The group of citizens that sued the district have acquired their own geo-technical survey of the site, which shows it is bordered on the north and south by a fault zone one-sixth of a mile from the reservoir site.

Water district documents, however, show that the nearest fault zone is 3 miles from the site.

Residents also say they are concerned that building the reservoir will produce unhealthy noise and dust levels, cause the land to subside and lower the ground-water table. They contend that the three-year construction time for the reservoir will eventually destroy the quiet residential neighborhood.

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They particularly object to the use of large trucks to remove 150,000 cubic yards of dirt, half of which will be returned to the site to cover up the reservoir after it is built. They also say that noise from a permanent pumping station will be a nuisance.

A hearing in the case has been set for June 11.

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