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UPDATE: SCV: Sanitation district, state reach agreement on chloride fine

Dollar amount reduced by 20 percent, but fine still has to be paid

Posted: March 14, 2013 9:28 a.m.
Updated: March 14, 2013 7:08 p.m.

Local and state officials have negotiated a reduced fine that Santa Clarita Valley residents will pay for what is deemed unacceptably high levels of chloride in wastewater, Sanitation District officials announced Thursday.

Meantime, district employees continue technical studies for a chloride-reducing proposal that would be the “least expensive and most environmentally sensitive solution to comply with the state’s strict chloride limits in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Sanitation District officials said in a news release issued Thursday.

That plan to reduce naturally occurring salt in wastewater is expected to be ready for public review in April.

Whatever chloride-reducing system is adopted, residents who are hooked up to the sewer system in the Santa Clarita Valley — everyone except those on septic tanks — will foot the bill for the system, as well as pay the fine. That fine was reduced from $280,250 to $225,000, the Thursday news release said.

The Santa Clarita Valley’s wastewater is dumped into the Santa Clara River after treatment, and farmers downstream in the Santa Clara River Valley say that is the source of elevated chloride levels.

The salt is particularly damaging to strawberries and avocados, farmers say. It's perfectly safe for human consumption, water-quality officials say.

The local Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove chloride. Doing so can be very costly.

Santa Clarita city officials and residents have battled state officials over costs of removing chloride from the river since 2010.

Critics of the state’s demands say there is insufficient scientific evidence of chloride damage to downstream crops.

They called the initial plan for dealing with the issue — building a reverse-osmosis treatment plant with a price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars — a ridiculous over-reaction that would create a hostile business climate in the Santa Clarita Valley by spiking wastewater disposal rates.

Sewage rates would be driven up by 50 percent if the reverse-osmosis plan were adopted, according to some estimates.

Businesses that use a lot of water, such as restaurants and laundromats, car washes and dealerships, would be particularly hard hit.

The district was fined for failing to meet previous time lines for a chloride plan after residents refused in July 2010 to pay for the costly reverse-osmosis system.

The $280,250 fine was levied in November. At that time both state and local officials noted more fines could be coming.

However, the deal announced Thursday sets new deadlines, and as long as the Sanitation District meets them and produces an acceptable chloride-reduction plan there will be no additional fines, said district spokesman Tom LeBrun.

The first deadline is the end of April.

“We have to submit a draft facilities plan and environmental impact report (to the state) by the end of April,” LeBrun said.

The second deadline is for the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board “to take action and certify the EIR” by Oct. 31, 2013, he said.

By meeting the two deadlines, the district avoids additional fines until at least October. Public meetings on the chloride-reduction plan are expected during the summer.




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