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Sanitation District ups rates for chloride-removal system

Posted: July 7, 2014 8:37 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2014 8:37 p.m.
 

Saying they don’t like the decision any more than the handful of people who complained about it, Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District directors voted Monday night to increase local sewage rates to pay for a chloride-removal system.

The district, which encompasses all areas on the sewer system within the Santa Clarita Valley, is being required by state law to reduce salt in wastewater dumped into the Santa Clara River to no more than 100 milligrams per liter of discharged water.

Building a system to accomplish that will be funded by an increase in sewage rates that will be phased in over six years’ time. Rates for single-family homes are expected to gradually increase to about $100 a year per single-family home within six years.

The rates for businesses would vary depending upon the quantity of water they use and the amount of pollution they discharge.

A handful of residents protested the rate increase during the district meeting Monday night at Santa Clarita City Hall.

 “I’m still astounded … that the rate is so ridiculously low,” said Castaic Area Town Council member Flo Lawrence of the 100 mg/L level required by the state to meet levels of chloride – a naturally occurring element that with sodium makes up common table salt – in water discharged by the Santa Clarita Valley’s two water treatment plants.

District directors reminded the 30 or so people at the meeting that they have battled the 100 mg/L level – which is considerably lower than accepted levels in most California regions – for some 10 years and face deadlines or steep fines from state officials. Those fines would be passed on to the district’s ratepayers.

“I’m openly in agreement with some of the comments made here tonight,” Director Bob Kellar said. “But we are bound by the laws of the state of California. Ladies and gentlemen, we have no choice.”

“To leave this burden on the ratepayer is totally unfair,” county Supervisor Michael Antonovich said.

Noting the county faces possible stormwater cleanup fees imposed by the same state agency that set the chloride limit, Antonovich said, “The (state) Legislature, the governor and federal legislative bodies need to put this at the top of the list and stop ignoring it.” He called for state and federal grants to fund programs like the salt-removal system being required of the SCV Sanitation District.

Sam Unger, chief administrator for the regional Water Quality Control Board that imposed the chloride level, said members of that board have passed along to him “very strong instruction to work cooperatively” with local officials to secure grants or any other avenues of reducing the cost of the chloride-removal system.

At the same time, he said, the water quality board has been “very supportive of the (100 mg/L salt) standard for a dozen years now.”

The district’s Board of Directors, made up of two Santa Clarita City Council members and one county supervisor, passed two ordinances Monday night that will increase sewage rates per single-family home to $370 a year by the 2019-20 fiscal year. Sewage fees are paid on property tax bills.

By comparison, other cities’ sewage rates for the 2014-15 year are $404.40 in Glendale and $926.52 in Santa Paula.

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