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Water officials pitch plan

Posted: June 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

In an effort to avoid being hit with hefty water fines by the state, local sanitation officials have presented state officials with a brand new plan on how to reduce chloride ending up in the Santa Clara River watershed.

The basic thrust of the new proposed deal is that since current chloride conditions have changed, so should the agreement on how to control them.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District was given a deadline of June 27 to submit a plan of action to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which threatened fines of at least $10,000 a day for each of the district’s two water-reclamation plants.

In response, district officials sent a letter to the board dated Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Signal on Wednesday.

In it, the district promises to comply with all legal and regulatory requirements, one of which demands that the district discharge no more than 100 milligrams of chloride per liter into the Santa Clara River watershed.

It also promises to deliver two plans — one detailing the facilities needed to reduce chloride to acceptable levels and the other to assess its impact on the environment.

Sanitation heads want to begin designing the new facilities by Dec. 31, 2012.

It also urges the board to understand and appreciate that current chloride conditions are not as bad as they were when the water board gave it permission to discharge wastewater.

“Water-quality conditions and chloride levels in the Upper Santa Clara River have improved significantly since 2009,” the district’s letter of response states.

Chloride is a naturally occurring salt that farmers downstream say damages their crops. It is released into the river from the sanitation district’s two water-reclamation plants, which treat sewage from the Santa Clarita Valley.

Water quality-control officials have ordered the Sanitation District to reduce its chloride output to 100 milligrams per liter.
Possibility of fines

Will the regional board fine the local Sanitation District?

District spokesman Phil Friess said the decision is not expected to be delivered at the next meeting of the board of directors July 14.

“We’re not going to receive enforcement at the July meeting,” he said Wednesday. “I thought the board was going to be involved in the district fines, (but) that’s incorrect.

“There’s a prosecution team at the regional board of staffers, and the board is separate, so it’s actually staff that issue liability, not the board.”

Initial plan
In their initial plan crafted in 2008 — called the Alternative Water Resources Management plan — sanitation officials outlined a multiyear schedule involving a $250 million reverse osmosis plant that would reduce chloride ending up in the river.

That plan should change now to reflect changes in the environment, district heads say in their letter Monday.

“Not all of the components of the (original plan’s) facilities proposed in 2008 are still needed to achieve the level of downstream water quality and protection of designated beneficial uses (those) facilities were designed to achieve,” the letter said.

The district wants the board to consider two developments that reduce chloride content:

n Court-imposed pumping restrictions that reduce the amount of salty seawater “back flow” entering water the Santa Clarita Valley receives via the California aqueduct and the State Water Project.

n Banking groundwater along the aqueduct, which is low in chloride.

These two developments, according to district heads, have effectively reduced the amount of chloride in the water entering Castaic Lake.

District officials promise to prove their argument to the water board with an engineering study recently commissioned by the Castaic Lake Water Agency that will “provide a sound technical basis for projections of future peak State Water Project chloride levels.”

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