From salt water to drinking water

December 9, 2008 5:51:07 PM PST
A green idea is getting mixed reaction in the town of Surfside. It involves innovative pumps that can turn salt water into drinking water.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

While the idea may sound novel, some homeowners along the coast are now speaking out against it.

Surfside homeowners will be voicing their concerns at a public hearing. The piece of land where the plant will be built is already zoned for commercial use. The city council wants to change the language to include a water bottling plant. A project that some homeowners fear will spoil the charm of their beachside community.

There is just something about the sand and sea. It's what compelled Bob Petty to build his multimillion dollar dream home on Surfside Beach. A slice of paradise he believes may be in jeopardy.

"It'll be devastating to our community and everybody's investment on this island," Petty said.

Petty is talking about an innovative new system of pumps that uses wave energy to turn large volumes of salt water into drinking water. It's the brainchild of a Minnesota based company called Independent Natural Resources.

While the plant will be built on land, 18 of the floating pumps will be placed roughly a mile offshore. Each one is about 35 feet tall. Homeowners are worried about light and noise pollution, not to mention what they fear will be a negative impact on tourism.

"If I wanted all this, I could have stayed back in Houston," said concerned homeowner Jalene Blanscet.

As upset as some of these residents are about the project itself, they're even more frustrated that Surfside's mayor is backing it. Many wonder, what's in it for him?

"They're telling people that I own part of it, that I'm going to profit from it which is farthest from the truth," said Mayor Larry Davison. "I have no interest whatsoever in it."

Mayor Davison says his only interest is to see that piece of property cleaned up and developed. He believes the green technology will give surfside the recognition it deserves.

"If it's successful like we think it might be, we'll get worldwide attention and we'd like to be part of that," Davison said.

Petty, who has launched a campaign to educate homeowners, says it's not the technology he has a problem with, it's the location.

"I'm not really in it only for my backyard," he said. "I'm in it for the whole community. I'm about to be a grandfather and I want my grand kids to play on the beach without having a factory.

The plant will be able to produce close to 950 cases of water a day though it is not expected to operate at full capacity. A company spokesman tells us, an independent third party will be hired to conduct an environmental assessment.

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