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Kevin Korenthal: Government failed us on chloride issue

Posted: July 5, 2013 1:16 p.m.
Updated: July 5, 2013 1:16 p.m.
 

I just received a notice in the mail letting me know that Santa Clarita water customers have an additional 30 days to write and send comments in on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District Chloride Compliance Facilities Plan and Environmental Impact Report. My comment is this: It’s not needed and even if it were, it’s not solely Santa Clarita ratepayers that are responsible for allegedly higher than acceptable chloride levels.

Southern California’s water challenges, including the chloride issue, stem in part from the state of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta. This is where water runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains collects in what is today a massive system of streams and rivers surrounded on all sides and in between by farmland. That water is then pumped, in some cases against the natural current of the river, into the California aqueduct system.

As water travels through the delta and aqueduct, it collects a variety of contaminants. Decaying plant life, agricultural and industrial runoff and salt from seawater intrusion invade this pristine product. Moreover, moving water through the Delta also impacts the region’s ecosystem by diverting the natural flow of the water to meet the needs of thirsty Californians.

Compare this to how many in Sacramento get their water, which incidentally tastes great straight from the tap. That water comes directly from the Sacramento River at a point not far from where streams feed it. Sacramento’s water has very few dissolved solids or biological elements in it, and therefore, very little treatment is necessary.

Both seawater intrusion and the runoff from agricultural and industrial production add salt and/or chloride to the water. That translates into pretty high levels (up to 80 milligrams per liter) of chloride before the water even gets to Santa Clarita. Even without the self-regenerating water softeners we’ve given up, the amount of salt that remains in our reprocessed sewage water exceeds the 117 mg/l standard for farming applications downstream of the Santa Clarita Valley.

This is not the only terrible consequence of our water conveyance system. Because of the biological matter that is collected during transport, the water must now be treated with chloramines, which is the preferred biological mitigation process of Santa Clarita water retailers. Chloramines are a combination of ammonia and chlorine that when added to the water maintains biological-free water longer than chlorine alone.

The problem is that these chemicals are not safe – even in the low amounts they are being used – for any water-dwelling pets. For some humans, the chemical combination causes an allergic reaction that may or may not be treatable with steroids and/or painful allergy shots.

The Delta is also an environmental and National Security threat. A biological attack, or more likely, an earthquake centered near the Delta would end water delivery for months or even years.

So the water arriving to the Santa Clarita Valley is not only high in chlorides, it is essentially unfit for human consumption. The retailers add toxic chemicals to the water which remove dangerous biological elements but which also leave behind a nasty taste and may contribute to potential health issues.

And the only solution that anyone on the Regional Water Quality Control Board will accept is to use reverse osmosis treatment on some of the reclaimed (treated sewage) water sent downstream? Ladies and gentleman, welcome to one of the biggest failures of government ever.

The failure is not that we’re being told to build this multimillion dollar facility but in the fact that it is by the neglect and politicization of the California Aqueduct System that Santa Clarita ratepayers will pay more for service while getting the same terrible tasting water. The real solution of course is for the State Water Contractors to build the long-planned underground water conveyance system that would route water around the salt-infested delta.

It’s a solid plan that will be funded via the municipalities that would use the water. This solution does far more than just lower salinity. The amount of biological debris contained in water that is routed under the delta will be small enough to be treated solely with chlorine alone or, better yet, new ultraviolet light technology.

California’s entire water infrastructure is in peril and any water improvement program which does not include the new delta conveyance is a waste of time and money. Direct your comments to Mary Jacobs. Email to mjacobs@lacsd.org or phone (562) 908-4288.

Kevin D. Korenthal is a past candidate for water board and resides in Canyon Country.

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