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Rain keeps chloride level low

Environment: Sanitation District official says dry weather raises salt content

Posted: July 29, 2010 10:43 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Chloride levels in the Santa Clara River have risen above the limit demanded by Ventura County farmers only once in the past six months — and then only by two milligrams per liter, a Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District official said Thursday.

“When it rained a lot in January, that’s what made the levels low,” said Frank Guerrero, a senior engineer with the Sanitation District.

Since January, the level of chloride rose above the 117-milligrams-per-liter level sought by downstream farmers only in June, when it reached 119 milligrams per liter, Guerrero said.

“Now that it’s summer, we’re right back up there,” he said. “The levels are dependent on a lot of rainfall. It’s always been a drought issue.”

Amid a raucous public meeting Tuesday, the Sanitation District voted to delay a sewage-rate increase aimed in part at beginning the process of building a $210-million chloride-removing treatment plant in the Santa Clara River — which is
where Santa Clarita Valley’s treated sewage goes.

Downstream farmers say their salt-sensitive strawberries and avocados won’t tolerate higher levels.

SCV residents contend the water they get from the State Water Project already has chloride in it, and they don’t intend to pay to remove a salt safe for humans due to farmers’ poor crop choices.

Since January, “(Chloride) levels have been as low as 90 milligrams per liter,” Guerrero said Thursday.

The water is tested where the river enters Ventura County.

Meanwhile, an official with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board said he’s fine with the Sanitation District’s decision Tuesday night — as long as the district keeps the chloride out of the river.

“To the extent that (district board members) may now find an alternative, that would be all right,” Samuel Unger said of the delayed vote on a rate increase.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board is charged with enacting the federal Clean Water Act, which guarantees “beneficial users”  downstream — such as Ventura County farmers — water with the state-mandated level of chloride in it.

“The critical issue for the board is to have the (chloride-removing) reverse-osmosis plant up and running by 2015,” he said.

“If the district can take intermediate steps to get there,” Unger said of the 117 milligrams-per-liter limit, “and if they can meet the limit, then that suits the board.”


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