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Cam Noltemeyer: Start at the beginning, not the end

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: September 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

The debate regarding the amount of salt in the water coming into our city and the amount of salt in the water leaving our city through the Sanitation District rages on.

The issues range from the cause, who should pay and who didn't do their job through the many years that created the problem.

It is interesting to note that in 1961, there was an ordinance against water softeners. Now, if you think about who owned the land you might have a pretty good clue as to why. The company owning the land had "farming" in its title. It did farm the land, and a good farmer knows you don't allow anything that will salt your land if you want your crops to grow. It isn't something that originated in Ventura County.

In 1978, the chloride (salt) standard of 100 milligrams per liter was set. That was the standard. It wasn't just for the Santa Clarita Valley.

Fast forward to 1997, and a lawsuit by the water-softener industry allowed water softeners, according to a recap given by Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste. Weste, along with Councilwoman Marsha McLean, is a director of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District.

What the Sanitation District was doing during this time to meet the chloride standard created by the water softeners remains a mystery. Is relying on a drought standard really a solution?

According to Stephen R. Maguin's column "Imported water is not the sole problem we have" (Aug. 26), the delivery of State Water Project water to the SCV began in 1980 - only two years after the water softeners became legal.

Fast forward 28 years to 2008. After the biggest development boom in the history of the valley, the solution was to outlaw water softeners - shades of the 1960s. Of course, this did nothing to the salty imported water from the state.

Maguin says the chloride levels in the local groundwater are only slightly lower that the chloride levels in the State Water Project water. Let's examine this for a minute.

Maguin has said that treating the water before it is delivered to the water system is far too costly because 60 percent of the water is used for landscaping and doesn't need to be treated because it doesn't go into the sewer.

But that 60 percent to landscaping does go into our watershed, and in drought years may be the only source of recharge.
Recycled sewer water is used on the golf courses. Is it any wonder that our local groundwater is showing an increase in salt?

Now let's look at the $250 million solution that was presented as a wonderful way to solve the problem created by 32 years of noncompliance and no plan to comply.

The first $500 million solution included a brine line to the ocean to dispose of the salt. The $250 million solution has the very questionable environmental system of building a plant to take out the salt and then dumping the salt down old oil wells. The cost of the brine line was the big savings. Talk about salting the earth.

Maguin stated that the Newhall Ranch project will have its own separate wastewater-treatment system to meet the stringent chloride levels when it is necessary to discharge to the Santa Clara River. What he doesn't say see how do they plan to dispose of the salt.

The cost of modification or upgrades to ensure compliance is not the responsibility of the ratepayers through some unfair and manipulated rate increase.

Connection fees through the development boom should have been set aside to pay for the problem it has caused in our local groundwater and in the sewer water.

Instead, millions have been borrowed from the capital-improvement fund to keep service rates low. Apparently, this was done so some of those on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board could claim our fees are lower than others. It is a tactic that has been used often by some of them to deceive the ratepayers in Santa Clartia.

One thing is clear, the problem must be treated at the beginning, not the end of the problem. The main source of the salt is the State Water Project and the use of that water is creating the increase in the local groundwater.

Thank you, county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, for being the only board member who understands.

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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