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Hike may be on hold

Posted: June 18, 2009 9:15 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2009 4:30 a.m.

A more than 200 percent increase in Santa Clarita Valley sewer fees may be put on hold for at least a year, a Sanitation District official said Thursday.

Following a contentious public meeting last month in which residents expressed outrage, Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry and Sanitation District General Manager Steve Maguin met with water-quality officials to discuss a compromise, Maguin said Thursday.

“It was a very positive meeting,” Ferry said of the June 10 get-together with  Maguin and officials with the Los Angeles Area Regional Water Quality Control Board.

“They understood that tripling our rates in this economy would be punitive,” Ferry said.

While a small rate increase may still be approved soon, plans for a more than 200 percent hike are on hold until less-restrictive standards for wastewater can be discussed, Maguin and Ferry said Thursday.

Officials with the Los Angeles Area Regional Quality Control Board could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

The proposed rate hike, which would increase sewage fees from $14.92 a month to $47 a month by 2015, was aimed at upgrading two sewer-treatment plants to remove chloride from wastewater dumped in the Santa Clara River.

That water flows westward to farms in the Santa Clara River Valley, where chloride, a salt, can kill crops. It also leaches into residential wells.

Further meetings with the Regional Water Quality Control Board may lead to a compromise on chloride levels, but Ferry isn’t sure at what level the new chloride standards would be set.

“It’s too early for (us) to know what the chloride levels will be,” he said.

The Sanitation District board, of which Ferry is a member, will meet next Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Santa Clarita City Hall. At the meeting, Ferry will tell Sanitation District employees to meet with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to try to establish a new chloride standard, said John Gulledge, financial planner for the Sanitation District.

As part of the proposed compromise, the Sanitation District will propose a one-year rate increase for fiscal year 2009-10, he said.

The rate increase proposed through 2015 will be put on hold for at least a year while the Sanitation District tries to find a compromise on the chloride standard, Gulledge said.

The upgrades to the SCV sewer treatment plants will be put on hold for at least a year, Gulledge said.

Ferry said getting the Regional Water Quality Control Board to consider bending on the chloride standard is quite a feat for the Sanitation District and a benefit to the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“For them (the regional board members) to be helpful, and not punitive, is remarkable,” he said. “Our residents can’t absorb the Sanitation District tripling their sewer rates.”


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