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Locals hope to flush out truth about potential sewer-rate hike

Residents air grievances over proposed increase to Sanitation District officials at City Hall

Posted: June 30, 2010 8:59 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Sanitation District officials who held the first of a series of public information meetings on a proposed sewer-rate hike met with criticism and confusion from about 50 people who attended.

“I want to believe in your numbers,” Canyon Country resident Al Ferdman said at the Tuesday night meeting at Santa Clarita City Hall. “I see numbers like the ones you’re showing us, but every year I pay a 10-percent increase.”

Ferdman challenged district officials on a number of issues at the meeting, called so residents could ask questions about the proposal to underwrite a $210 million reverse-osmosis plant to remove chloride from the Santa Clara River.

A district official said he’d look into Ferdman’s claim of a yearly increase.

“There was a little concern expressed at the meeting over who’s getting the benefit from the reduced chloride,” said John Kilgore, supervising engineer in the district’s financial planning department who was one of the district officials at the Tuesday meeting.

“The bottom line is that we have to meet the compliance,” he said.

117 the magic number
The district is charged with ensuring that Santa Clara River water leaving the Santa Clarita Valley contains no more than 117 milligrams of chloride per liter.

The proposed reverse-osmosis plant is designed to ensure there are no higher levels of chloride — one of two naturally occurring components of common table salt — in the river, where Santa Clarita Valley sewage goes after it is treated at already-existing plants.

If the river water downstream of the Santa Clarita Valley is found to have higher chloride levels, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board could fine the district $3,000 to $10,000 a day.

The strict 117 milligrams per liter level is necessary because downstream farmers are growing crops that are intolerant of chloride, according to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Claims of discrepancy
Lobbyist Allan Cameron argued there is an apparent discrepancy between chloride expectations placed on water discharged from Lake Piru compared to the water discharged in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“The water arriving in Lake Piru is the same water from the State Water Project that arrives at Castaic Lake,” he said, pointing out that no one seems to challenge that water’s chloride level.

Other attendees asked about the chloride content of water arriving in Santa Clarita from the San Joaquin Delta via the State Water Project; it already contains a significant amount of chloride, they said.

A recent Signal series on the issue quoted local water officials putting the chloride content of State Water Project water at 80 milligrams per liter when it arrives in the SCV.

The district wants to raise annual rates from $199 to $296 over four years to pay for initial startup costs associated with building the reverse-osmosis plant.



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