BARSTOW The city is ready to move forward with its project to clean up the nitrate-laden groundwater in the Soap Mine Road neighborhood, according to Wastewater Project Manager Mark Murphy. The Barstow City Council approved an easement agreement between Pacific Holt Corporation and the city for the construction of a pipeline on 492 feet of property owned by the corporation.

The City Council voted 4-0-1 in favor of the agreement at a special meeting Thursday. Councilmember Timothy Silva was absent.

The Council's approval of the agreement between Barstow and Pacific Holt, a Merced-based developer which plans to build a 300-unit housing development on 150 acres of land, will allow the city to complete construction of the pipeline, Murphy said at the meeting. The pipeline will take the groundwater from the Soap Mine Road area across the river to a treatment facility situated within the wastewater reclamation plant, he said.

Murphy told the Council the entire pipeline and the treatment system will probably be installed and running by the end of September. The city will pay Pacific Holt $492, or $1 per foot, for allowing the pipeline on its property, according to Murphy. By Nov. 30, the city has to deliver a plan to clean up the nitrate-laden groundwater in the Soap Mine Road area to the Lahontan Regional Water Board.

"Our pilot project will cover three months worth of data gathering," Murphy said. "Once we have the project data gathered and analyzed we go into final remediation."

Murphy said once the plan is finalized, the cleanup could take as long as 30 years, but it may be less.

The Council's decision comes after Tom Nevis, whose wife Saundra Nevis heads Pacific Holt, threatened to sue the city. At an informal meeting June 16, Nevis told City Manager Richard Rowe he was going to sue the city because he was unable to develop the property. No lawsuit has been filed, Rowe said after Thursday's meeting.

One of the reasons Pacific Holt, which bought the property in 2006, was willing to give the city the easement is because it hadn't provided for any wastewater treatment for its proposed housing development yet, Rowe said. The corporation approached the city and asked if it could share the existing sewer pipeline that runs under the riverbed, he said. Rowe said if Pacific Holt can demonstrate that two pipes can be used to accommodate the city's groundwater remediation project and serve the corporation's wastewater needs, city staff wouldn't have a problem bringing that recommendation back to the City Council.

According to City Spokesman John Rader, Pacific Holt has to present an environmental impact report to the city before it can move forward with construction. Attempts to reach Pacific Holt for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

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(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com