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SCV business leaders request specifics on chloride cleanup

'Let’s be big kids about this and discuss it,' says chamber chairman

Posted: June 11, 2013 6:40 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2013 6:40 p.m.

Local business leaders asked the head of the regional water board for “hard numbers” on the cost of chloride cleanup Tuesday, but they got an “It depends” answer.
Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation and two other business organizations met Tuesday with Sam Unger, chief administrator for the regional water quality board that fined the local sanitation district $225,000.

Local attorney Hunt Braly, speaking on behalf of local businesses, told Unger: “We have not gotten good enough data from the sanitation district, directed to you, as to what the cost will be to businesses even if we pick the lowest-cost alternative in the environment impact report.”

Braly was referring to documents released by the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District in April outlining four alternative plans for reducing the amount of chloride discharged into the Santa Clara River at each of its two water reclamation plants, one in Valencia and one in Saugus.

“What can we expect as the business community?” Braly asked. “Our fear is the board has the ability and the willingness to actually cut off our economic development.”

Unger replied: “I don’t think that the regional board wants to shut business in Santa Clarita.

“We actually have a board that adopted the Newhall (Ranch) permit last year,” he said, “one of the largest developments in recent history.

“I don’t think we have the authority to shut down business,” he said. “What we do have is the authority to regulate the effluent discharges from the Valencia and Saugus plants.

“The board is interested in moving toward compliance,” Unger told the group. “In terms of shutting down the valley? I don’t get that.”

For the past two months, sanitation district officials have criss-crossed the Santa Clarita Valley holding public information meetings and hearings about plans to reduce the amount of chloride discharged into the Santa Clara River.

The cost to a single-family home could boost annual sewer fees by $125 to $265. Numbers for businesses have ranged more widely and been less specific.

Comments expressed at Tuesday’s meeting are expected to be added to the mix of public opinion already collected by sanitation district officials trying to gauge which of their four proposed plans should be recommended to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Fred Arnold, chairman of the board of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, said local business anticipates hefty sewer hookup fees regardless of which plan is endorsed.

“We had one of our board members do a survey on this particular issue, and over last 12 years the hookup fees have gone up 20 percent per year on commercial sites, which is absolutely, completely unacceptable,” he said. “Those fees get passed on to the tenants, and that’s bad for business.

“Our biggest concern is that it is stifling jobs,” he said of the increasing tenant costs.

“Once we implement one of these plans, then fees are obviously going to go up,” he said. “Let’s be big kids about this and discuss it. If we know what we have to deal with, we can make business decisions on that.”

Sanitation District spokesman Phil Friess told Arnold, “It’s very hard to talk about hard cost impacts when you don’t have a project chosen.”

The sanitation district has until Oct. 31 to submit a plan to the regional water board detailing how it will reduce the amount of chloride discharged into the Santa Clara River watershed.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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