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Cam Noltemeyer: Someone has to pay

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: July 28, 2010 6:48 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Who is going to pay? Not us.

The question is, who will pay, how will they pay and when will they pay.

Water from Northern California is expensive.

It costs money to pay for the Earl Schmidt Filtration and Rio Vista Water Treatment plants to clean up that water and make it drinkable. Then it costs more money to take the salt out so it will not hurt downstream farming.

Someone has to pay for all of this. There is no free lunch. 

Because of all these costs, imported state water is way more expensive then our local well water. But our local water supply can no longer support all the new development in the valley without state water. And all new development that is approved will require more imported state water.

Who will pay for all of these costs? It appears the public will pay for the increasing costs of water for new development, since water agencies throughout the valley have raised their water rates to cover increases charged by Castaic Lake Water Agency for the imported water supply.

In a Signal article last June (“Sewer rates take a hike,” June 25, 2009), reporter Brandon Lowrey quoted Sanitation District engineer Steve Maguin as saying that the board, at that time, chose raising sewer-connection fees over a sharper monthly fee for residents to avoid essentially punishing current residents for the valley’s growth.

Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry was quoted in the same article as saying, “If you lived in Santa Clarita 25 years, your quality of life shouldn’t change because of the new 3,000 people or the new restaurants.”

All new growth is supplied by imported state water. State water is the cause of the high salt content in our sewer water. All new development will increase the amount of salt in our sewage water. So we think that new development-connection fees should pay for the cost of this increased salt level.

We can understand why the public has come out to oppose the rate increases that our elected officials want to place on their backs for reducing chlorides.

What we don’t really understand is why some will support new development like the 1,260-unit Skyline Ranch that county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich approved Tuesday before attending the Sanitation District hearing on the sewer rates.

Then they complain about increased sewer assessments. There seems to be some disconnect here. More development requires more imported water supply that makes higher salts for the sanitation plant, requiring expensive treatment, which requires an increase in sewer rates. 

According to an article in The Signal by Jonathan Randles (“Skyline Ranch on the horizon,” July 28), regarding Skyline Ranch the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District has a simple answer.

When questioned about the increase in chlorides from the 1,260 homes, Frank Guerrero, an engineer with the SCV Sanitation District said, according to The Signal, the concentration of chloride in the Santa Clara River wouldn’t increase because whatever chloride is discharged into the river would be diluted with more water.

Now why didn’t we think of that? Why didn’t all of our elected officials at Tuesday’s hearing — one of whom was Antonovich, who approved the 1,260 homes — think of that?

Apparently, that is the kind of thinking that gets 1,260 homes approved. It must be right. Now all they have to do to solve the salt problem is to come up with a new source of fresh water to dilute the saltwater from the state. All of our groundwater is already taken. I suggest our elected officials solve that problem before they ask the ratepayers of this city to bail them out with $250 million.

At Tuesday’s Sanitation District hearing, Mayor Laurene Weste stated that we have been increasing our use of state water for many years. The sanitation districts have known for many years that salt from the imported state water in the Santa Clara River is a problem. Why didn’t they include the costs of addressing this problem in the connection fees on new development? Are these costs in there now? Or are they just trying to put it all on the public?

While Maguin of the Sanitation District claimed Tuesday that connection fees for developers cover the “buy-in” cost for using the system, it seems that those “buy-in” costs do not cover building the treatment upgrades to meet the chloride standards.

Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) has long supported the concept that the polluter should pay for the cleanup, and new development should pay for itself.

Taxes should not be levied on existing residents to help developers increase their profits, nor should the public have to subsidize corporations that pollute.

Cam Noltemeyer is a Santa Clarita resident and a board member of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays and rotates among local environmentalists.


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