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Saugus wells to pump clean water

Cheaper local water comes at ideal time

Posted: January 8, 2009 9:43 p.m.
Updated: January 9, 2009 12:00 p.m.
The two formerly perchlorate-tainted Saugus wells shut down for more than a decade should be pumping fresh, clean drinking water for more than 30,000 customers of the Newhall County Water District by April, said the newly elected president of the water district that owns them.

Well-water costs the Newhall district about a third of the cost of state water conveyed from Northern California through the State Water Project.

The cheaper local water could not have come a better time, said Maria Gutzeit, the district's recently elected president.

"The Newhall County Water District gets about half its water from the state. Cutbacks to that supply make us take a close look at the importance of groundwater," she said. "It's always better to rely on groundwater since we have a bit more control over it."

In 1997, water officials shut down the two wells on the south fork of the Santa Clara River, near the intersection of Magic Mountain Parkway and Newhall Avenue (formerly San Fernando Road), after officials found significant levels of the harmful chemical perchlorate in the water.
Supplying water in a sagging economy is one of the top challenges facing the district this coming year, Gutzeit said.

"The economy has affected the growth in this valley," she said, citing homes once slated to be built in Castaic's Northlake area that never materialized.
"Newhall was poised to accommodate a lot of that growth. This was going to be a huge plus for us," she said.

The district budgeted to collect lucrative fees charged to home developers that didn't come through.
"Now, we're readjusting our budgets," she said.

Gutzeit is a chemical engineer and owner of Compliance Plus, an environmental regulatory consulting firm working with industry.

She was first elected to the district's board in 2003 and re-elected in 2007, has served as president in 2005 and 2006 and vice president in 2007 and 2008.

"I am excited about leading this great organization again," she said. "With the regulatory, political and financial challenges in the state, it is a real opportunity to problem-solve."

Gutzeit replaces outgoing Newhall President B.J. Atkins now the district's liaison to the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

"I like to think I represent the constituents of the Newhall County Water District," he said. "I can certainly take the interests of our district to the agency."

Atkins served as a board member of the Newhall County Water District since 2005.

"We are very interested in the interaction between the CLWA and the Department of Water Resources with regards to how the (San Joaquin) Delta is to be sustained," he said.

Also elected recently was Newhall board member Daniel R. Mortensen to the position of vice president of the district.

Elected in 2007, he is a board-certified tax attorney and a principal with Mortensen Law, Tax, Trust & Estate Attorneys, P.C.

"It has been a real pleasure working with Director Gutzeit this last year," he said. "I look forward to continuing our work together for the benefit of the ratepayers who entrusted us with this responsibility."


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