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Chloride plan chosen

Local sanitation district decides on option to reduce chloride levels

Posted: October 29, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 29, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Sam Unger, chief administrator for the Regional Water Board, addresses the local sanitation board on chloride compliance level options at City Hall on Monday. Photo by Charlie Kaijo.

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After years of wrangling over the best way to reduce the amount of chloride ending up in the Santa Clara River, local water experts, environmentalists, as well as business and civic leaders rallied behind a plan Monday to bury salty compound deep beneath the Santa Clarita Valley.

A chorus of public voices ­— in what Newhall County Water Board vice-president BJ Atkins called a “kumbaya moment” — urged the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District Board to move forward with a plan calling for chloride discharged by the sanitation district to be removed by reverse osmosis technology, then buried deep underground.

After more than 90 minutes of speakers denouncing the previously recommended two-phased Alternative Water Resource Management Plan — known as Alternative 4 ­— and lauding the district’s newly-recommended “deep well injection” backup plan — known as Alternative 2 — the three-member sanitation board authorized the district to move forward with deep well injection.

The board approved the motion to adopt the sanitation district’s final Environmental Impact Report for Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District Chloride Compliance Facilities Plan and, specifically, its backup plan calling for the reduction of chloride discharge through reverse osmosis technology and deep well injection.

Grace Robinson Chan, chief engineer and general manager for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles, announced the district’s decision to abandon its support of Alternative 4.

“Ventura stakeholders who previously supported Alternative 4 have now withdrawn their support and are now supporting Alternative 2,” she said.

One of the key reasons the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board approved the 2008 Alternative Water Resource Management Plan was that IT included the involvement of Ventura County farming interests, considered “beneficial users” of the river’s water. Without their support the plan cannot work.

This past week those farming interests announced they would not support Alternative 4, Chan said.

E. Michael Solomon, general manager of the United Water Conservation District, speaking as a representative of those interests told the board: “We’ve run out of patience and urge the board to approve the EIR and Alternative 2.”

Kathy Norris, president of Valley Industry Association, said: “VIA asks that you move forward with Alternative 2.”
Hunt Braly, representing the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: “We urge you to make a decision tonight and adopt Alternative 2. Let’s make a decision and move on.”

Santa Clarita city council candidate Al Ferdman said: “I also believe Alternative 2 most beneficial to our ratepayers.”

Santa Clarita resident Alan Cameron said; “Alternative 4 has been killed and I might add it is a mercy assassination. It was a terrible concept.”

Santa Clarita resident Kevin Korenthal said: “Alternative 2 appears to be a reasonable and acceptable compromise.”

Pasadena attorney Robert Silverstein, representing a coalition of property interests said: “We applaud that fact that Alternative 4 has been killed as it should have killed a long time ago.”

Silverstein advised the board that they should ask the state for more time since the sanitation district’s last- minute change in recommended plan allows for it California Environmental Quality Act guidelines.

Silverstein warned the board not to get the “bum’s rush” in making a decision.

“Let’s take the time to make sure it’s done right,” he said. “Because of the (district’s) changes this morning there is a reason to ask for additional time.”

Tom Campbell, president of the Castaic Lake Water Agency which had a lead hand in drafting Alternative 4, said: “The agency now supports Alternative 2 which is the least costly of the remaining alternatives.”

Santa Clarita City Council candidate Dante Acosta said: “I came prepared to oppose Alternative 4 but now that it’s off the table it’s sort of a relief.”

The battle over chloride in the Santa Clara River was put in motion by state law that says agricultural users are to be protected from pollutants in the water they use on their crops.

Some downstream farmers in Ventura County say the river water, into which the local Sanitation District disposes of its wastewater, has too much chloride and is damaging their avocados.

And some Santa Clarita Valley residents challenge the science behind the claim, but state water officials say it’s sufficient to lower chloride levels in the river.

More than three years ago the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District proposed a chloride-reduction plan for the Santa Clara River in response to farmers’ demands.

During a stormy public meeting in July 2010, residents turned down a costly reverse-osmosis plan that supporters said would rid the river of the chloride problem — at a cost of more than $200 million.

Last November the state fined the local Sanitation District $225,000 for failing to submit a plan.

In April the Sanitation District proposed four options for chloride cleanup and has encouraged residents to pick one since then.

The next deadline for a chloride-reduction plan to be selected is Thursday.
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