View Mobile Site

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos


Sanitation District eyes chloride fix

City and other officials hope for a chance to meet with state water assessors

Posted: January 21, 2013 11:15 a.m.
Updated: January 21, 2013 11:15 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley civic leaders are hoping to dodge a $280,250 water fine for high chloride levels through talks with state water quality assessors, according to city and sanitation district officials.

And, while they hope to resolve the immediate issue of the fine through talks, civic leaders are hoping a 10-year state plan to overhaul the state’s water delivery system will resolve the chloride issue for good.

Right now, however, Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District officials are wrestling with a looming fine.

Last month, they formally asked the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board to resolve the fine through settlement discussions, according to a letter sent to the board by the district’s lawyers.

Basically, they want a chance to plead their case and prove to the water board they are diligently working on ways to reduce the amount of chloride discharged into the Santa Clara River.

“The district is working diligently to complete this work so that the district can adopt a compliance project that is environmentally sound and cost-effective,” the Sanitation District officials state in their letter to the board, which was obtained by The Signal.

District officials want to “enter into settlement discussions to resolve the proposed (fine),” the letter dated Dec. 21 states.

District officials also tell the water board they want to have a public hearing about the fine.

Chloride is a naturally occurring salt that farmers downstream say is damaging to their avocado and strawberry crops. Because Santa Clarita Valley water treatment plants empty into the Santa Clara River, water officials say the valley has to reduce chloride or face steep fines, which would be passed on to sewage system users.

The cost of ridding the water of chloride is very steep. Some estimates put the cost at more than $250 million.

In November, the water board notified local sanitation officials they violated conditions of their temporary permit to discharge chloride — an agreement reached on condition that a permanent solution be proposed and then implemented.

Specifically, the board fined the Sanitation District for failing to submit paperwork on how officials plan to reduce chloride discharged into the Santa Clara River.

The complaint seeks a total penalty of $280,250 for failure to complete “Wastewater Facilities Plans and Programmatic Environmental Impact Reports” by the required due date.

The local district was expected to produce paperwork on its plan to reduce chloride by May 2011. It did not.
The district has been in violation of its discharge permits every day since May 4, 2011.

In its complaint, the board reminds district officials they could face a fine of $11.44 million for being in violation of permits for 572 days.

Santa Clarita city leaders called a special meeting before Christmas to address the looming fine.

The City Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board contesting the fine.

“We have not had any response on that letter so far having to do with the chloride matter,” Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar told The Signal on Friday.

“It is obviously still a very significant issue for our community,” he said. “And the city is certainly very much staying on this matter, working with the sanitation district and all concerned to see if we can’t come up with a responsible solution.”

According to Councilwoman Laurene Weste — one of three elected public officials on the local sanitation board — the board is prohibited from commenting on the fine since it is considered a legal matter. Such matters are discussed in closed session, she said.

But speaking as a City Council member, not a sanitation board member, Weste said all Santa Clarita Valley chloride problems will be solved with a massive overhaul of the state’s water delivery system.

In June, she and her fellow council members endorsed that overhaul, called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

The plan would cost more than $17 billion when it’s done. But, once it’s in place, Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers won’t have to worry about chloride levels or the fines that go with them, according to local leaders.

The bad news?

The effects of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would not be fully felt for another 10 years.

The problem for civic leaders and water officials is what to do about chloride until then.

About half the water used in the Santa Clarita Valley comes from Northern California and is moved southward through an outdated series of aqueducts, dams and pumps, including a 100-year-old agricultural levee system in the San Joaquin Delta. Sea water from the Delta gets into the Southern California-bound water there and contributes chloride and other salts.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan calls for a new way of moving that water from north to south that includes a tunnel underneath the Delta.

Such a tunnel would greatly reduce the salt levels delivered to the Santa Clarita Valley via the State Water Project, according to Castaic Lake Water Agency General Manager Dan Masnada.

The problem faced by city and Sanitation District officials: The plan is expected to take about 10 years to complete and would be operational in the mid-2020s.

Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged his support for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and made it a priority for the second half of his administration.

He has the support of Santa Clarita, which adopted a “support” position for the plan with letters sent to Ken Salazar, secretary for the Department of the Interior, Brown, Santa Clarita’s state legislative delegation, and the Castaic Lake Water Agency.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.


Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...