Carlsbad desalination plant creates jobs, may lead to water bill increase for San Diegans

2,500 workers hired for plant project

CARLSBAD, Calif. - A desalination plant coming to Carlsbad will create thousands of jobs, but could end up costing San Diegans in the long run.

Like so many San Diegans, David Shin was laid off in 2009.

"I know what it's about to not be in a job for awhile," said Shin. "It's an eye-opener."

But now, with his gloves on, walking alongside the site for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, Shin said things are looking up.

"It's great to know there is work out there," said Shin. "It not only provides jobs for the local people, but it has the added benefit of clean water for everyone."

Shin is an engineer who works on the filters that turn ocean water purer than bottled water through reverse osmosis. He's one of 2,500 San Diegans brought on to work on the controversial plant, now approved despite worries over expense and environmental impact.

Most San Diegans will see a $5 to $7 increase in their residential bill every month. Peter MacLaggan, vice president of Poseidon Resources, said there's a big pay-off -- currently, 90 percent of San Diego's water isn't local, and the plant will change that.

"Here at our doorstep we have the largest reservoir of the world, that will always be there," said MacLaggan, referring to the Pacific Ocean.

The pilot site just wrapped, which means it's time to start building. MacLaggan said the plant will take two gallons of ocean water and turn it into one gallon of fresh water, a process that will take just 20 minutes.

The water conversion may be quick, but the building is comparatively slow. The plant won't start producing fresh water for another three years.

"Well, this is a very complex, large project," said MacLaggan.

The project is complex and expensive, costing $500 million. The long construction time will mean long-term jobs, as MacLaggan said almost 600 employees -- construction workers, engineers and mechanics -- will stay on the project permanently following construction.

Shin isn't complaining, saying, "Our factory floor is busy now. Just being able to see our people hard at work and just have a means to survive in this world is just great."

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