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Chloride levels might make treatment plant a wash

Posted: August 21, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: August 21, 2011 1:30 a.m.
 

 For nine of the past 13 months, water in the Santa Clara River has crossed the Ventura County line below pollution limits set by water-quality officials, the latest water-quality numbers reveal.

With the exception of three months late in the summer of 2010 — when California was still in the grip of a statewide drought — chloride concentration in water sampled at the county line was below 117 milligrams per liter.

Local sanitation officials have until May 2015 to ensure that no more than 117 milligrams of chloride in every liter of river water enters Ventura County.

Chloride is a naturally occurring salt. Farmers downstream in Ventura County say it damages their avocado and strawberry crops, and they have demanded that the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District — which dumps treated water into the river — ensure chloride levels are kept low.

A plan crafted in 2008 called for chloride-reducing efforts, including a treatment plant costing at least $250 million. The cost of the plant would be borne by local Sanitation District ratepayers.

But the latest water tests at the Ventura County line show the 117-milligram level can be achieved without spending a dime on expensive chloride-ridding technology — at least for a time.

“But can we do it consistently, all the time, in dry years and wet years? That’s the challenge,” said Dave Snyder of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District. Chloride levels in water increase during drought.

Last summer, ratepayers convinced the three-member sanitation board to toss out the proposed rate increase.

That move broke the 2008 deal and, in May, the regional water quality board threatened to fine the sanitation district board for each day chloride levels exceed 100 milligrams per liter.

The water board gave the district until the end of June to come up with an acceptable plan for reducing chloride or it would begin issuing fines.

The sanitation board provided the water board with a new plan.

So far no fines have been levied. The water board executive director said recently he could not comment on the prospect of fines.

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