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Chloride: To sue or not to sue

Posted: July 26, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 26, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The chloride issue facing all SCV residents and businesses is huge.

We’re told the core problem is SVC’s chloride-rich waste water flowing west damages Ventura-area avocado and strawberry crops. As a result the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board dictated we hold our discharge to 100 mg of chloride per liter. Mostly, we stand at 117 mg/L but the numbers can rise considerably during drought.

Years ago our city leaders diligently tackled reducing chloride by banning water softeners. Although the move was unpopular, people complied and many believed the matter was successfully concluded.

It wasn’t, and here we are.

I attended the town hall meeting hosted by Assemblyman Scott Wilk. Differing points of view gleaned a lot of information. The sanitation/water community presented a mandate that residents must choose one of four costly plans to meet the 100 mg/L number.

A most unsettling message was: "SCV, pay up and don’t bother fighting back, you can’t win."

When bureaucrats force their hands into my wallet and tell me to shut up and take it, I explore.

Issues of supply, quality and purchase of water, sanitation, districts and boards are complex and bureaucratic. As designed. That’s how taxes, assessments and penalties are forced on us; all in the name of "government."

When subjects are convoluted, I resort to two basics: who’s behind it and follow the money.

The L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board members are appointees of the governor; unelected, unaccountable and powerfully dictatorial.

Those members reside in Beverly Hills, Malibu, Ojai, Pacific Palisades and L.A., yet have fined us $225,000 (reduced from $280,000) and threaten more.

Wading through this overwhelming morass begets more questions than answers.

With alleged decades of seemingly measurable crop injuries, why haven’t farmers sought relief?

They could seek redress by administrative resources or by suing. They would be in the plaintiffs’ seat and obligated to prove their damages.

Is the 100 mg/L a capricious number or one based on identifiable solid reasoning?

If 100 is based on historical data, how many decades has chloride been tracked?

Other California like-regions have limits as high as 175 mg/L. Why?

What is our eternal guarantee that if the 100 is met, they won’t decide 80 is next?

In the mix of a "plan" is a transfer of 6-million gallons of water per day from an SCV aquifer to downstream. Should we suffer a future (drought) event, we would need to buy that same water.

Considering Ventura-area water supply issues, is all of this ado about water quality or is it really about water supply for that geography with the SCV paying for it?

The four fix-option costs are cited at $140 million to nearly $400 million. Are maintenance and most importantly, long-term financing included?

Are we impotent victims with bureaucracies holding unlimited power to affect our sanitation apparatus, thus our taxes and economy?

This defeatism comes at a very sensitive time while experiencing the antics of our federal government and the IRS.

"Let’s sue ‘em." Perhaps, but careful thought must be given to the details.

For utmost effectiveness, does a coalition of sanitation districts unite and complain? Who are the targeted defendants? An action would involve levels of the federal Clean Water Act(s).

Conversely, if citizens don’t take a stand, at what point do we unite with "we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore"?

In 2009 the SCV Sanitation District hired lawyers and filed a "test claim" with the commission on State Mandates. Hundreds of pages lay out the whole scenario and remind the Commission that if the state imposes guidelines then the state is to pay the implementation, not the local residents.

I asked the handling attorney about the claim’s status. I haven’t gotten one.

Should attorneys have coalesced and aggressively filed amicus briefs supporting each other to show bureaucrats the public is tired of financial abuse?

Increased fees and taxes get passed on to tenants. All businesses, shopping centers, etc. will be impacted.

Late October 2013 is the deadline for the SCV to present a chloride-reduction plan.

Get informed. Evaluate various points of view by contacting people who have studied the matter like Maria Gutzeit — 661-670-0332; Alan Ferdman — 661-713-9344; Laurene Weste, Bob Kellar and TimBen Boydston at City Hall and Phil Friess at the Sanitation District — 562-908-4288 ext. 2501. Be aware of their positions and digest accordingly.

This is serious money and it’s right here, right now.

Betty Arenson is a resident of Valencia. "Right Here, Right Now" runs Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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