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Cost of salt reduction: $103 a year

SCV Sanitation District officials release rate proposal to remove chloride from wastewater

Posted: April 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 25, 2014 2:00 a.m.

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After six months of crunching numbers, writing grant proposals and negotiating with state agencies, Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District officials have released a proposed rate increase for local residents to foot the bill for removing salt from wastewater dumped into the Santa Clara River.

At the same time they assure ratepayers that everything is being done to satisfy environmental regulations as cheaply as possible.

In the first of a series of meetings that will continue into the summer, Sanitation District directors released a table of proposed rate increases that would phase in the cost of reducing naturally occurring chloride — one of two elements that make up common table salt — by building a $130 million system to reduce chloride discharged from the district’s two water treatment plants.

District directors emphasized that they must begin charging fees for the $130 million salt-reducing system as a demonstration of good faith to the state agency that enforces water quality standards in California as they negotiate for additional concessions from that agency.

The charge would begin with a $17-a-year increase in Sanitation District rates during fiscal year 2014-15 for single-family homes.

That rate would increase gradually until it reached $103 a year in fiscal year 2019-20 for single-family homes.

“We are committed to finding resolution here that is not a horrendous, horrible impact on Santa Clarita,” Director Laurene Weste said in an interview Thursday.

“I’ve never seen anything that was so unfair and doggedly hard on Santa Clarita,” Weste said of the state’s demand for chloride reduction. “But we will get this (cost) down, we will continue to work the legal angles, we will continue to work the legislative process, the grant process, as well as the technology issues” to reduce the yearly ratepayer fees, she said.

The district board consists of two Santa Clarita City Council members and a county supervisor.

$103 a year
The fees for chloride reduction in the river would appear on homeowners’ property tax bills combined with existing district fees.

Those existing fees would gradually increase from the current $247 a year, which does not include the cost of chloride cleanup, to $373 a year by 2019-20. The $373 a year includes some regular fee increases, as well as the additional chloride removal fee.

Condominium owners would pay 75 percent of the single-family-home rate, said John H. Gulledge, head of the Financial Management Department of the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County.

In October, when the system for chloride removal was approved by directors, its estimated cost per each single-family home was $140, district officials said.

That cost was reduced $37 over the six months since then, and Gulledge said more cost reductions are possible.

“We do see (additional) potential savings,” he said. “We’re pushing really hard to find those other funding sources.”

Cost reductions
Ventura County farmers who use Santa Clara River water to irrigate crops say the chloride damages their avocado trees.

The Santa Clarita Valley’s two water treatment plants, which dump treated water into the river, do not remove chloride because there was no requirement to do so when they were built.

The district has been ordered to reduce chloride levels in wastewater to 100 milligrams per liter at the Los Angeles-Ventura county line — or face stiff fines of as much as $3,000 a day. Those costs would be passed through to ratepayers.

During his presentation at Monday night’s board of directors meeting, Gulledge noted the price tag for chloride cleanup in the Santa Clarita Valley once stood at an estimated $500 million.

The current $130 million estimated cost is a vast improvement but may be lowered further, he said.

He noted the district has secured a $2.5 million Proposition 84 grant, is in the process of applying for a $5 million grant and is hoping to win as much as $30 million for chloride removal through a statewide bond measure in the fall.

The district is planning to use low-cost state loans for construction to save money, and it has asked the state water-quality regulation agency for some concessions, such as allowing for an average chloride discharge at treatment plants, rather than measuring each plant’s discharge, which could save $11 million, he said.

Public meetings
A series of public meetings on the rate increase proposal is scheduled beginning May 7.

“The informational public meetings are voluntary to try to reach out to the community and answer questions in advance of the public hearing,” which is tentatively set for June 30, Gulledge said.

In addition, the district will mail out notices to all residents who would be affected by the rate increase. The notices will outline the background of the chloride issue, the rate hike proposal, the cost to individual property owners and the date of the public hearing.

The notices will include an opportunity for property owners to protest the rate increase. No public vote on the matter will be held, but if 50 percent of property owners protest the rate increase, it would not be adopted.

Opposition
Although the Monday night meeting was sparsely attended, a few opponents of the chloride removal fees, which some call a “salt tax,” were on hand to demand more information or to criticize directors for adopting the plan.

Canyon Country resident Alan Ferdman called for information on increased connection fees, especially for businesses.

Berta Gonzalez-Harper, another Canyon Country resident, questioned what she called “junk science” behind the 100-milligrams-per-liter chloride maximum and the district’s lack of success in challenging that number.

“Get rid of your lawyers,” she told directors.

The district appealed the limitation to a state agency, claiming the demand constituted an unfunded mandate, but it lost in that arena. It has since filed a Superior Court lawsuit.

“I know there’s a lot of frustration out there,” Director Bob Kellar told the protesters. “It’s justified.”

“This is the state doing it. This is not us,” he said, noting the district has been fighting against the chloride-removal mandate for years.

But noting the district has already been fined once, he added, “If there’s nothing else that is clear, it’s that we’re not going to win.”

Comments

ohhyaa: Posted: April 25, 2014 7:08 a.m.

Any time Laurene Weste is part of a committee you know we're going to get screwed. If you look back to the start of all of this nonsense the costs were estimated at 20 - 25 million to build the desalination facility at an annual cost of $53 per household. With Weste representing us we are temporarily now at $130 million. I say give this corrupt lady enough rope to hang herself. It will eventually catch up to her.


ohhyaa: Posted: April 25, 2014 7:18 a.m.

Corrupt as a summer day is long.


17trillion: Posted: April 25, 2014 7:49 a.m.

Pay the damned fine and tell whoever to go screw themselves! By my calculations, $3,000.00 a day is just under 1.1 million a year which would pay for 118 years of the 130 million we would pay for the salt removing facilities. The net cost to residents is $4.40 per person per year.

I guess the brilliant leaders like Weste never considered this option? Mr. Ferdman, please stay on this. You have a lot of support.


Vtown123: Posted: April 25, 2014 8:23 a.m.

I've yet to hear an answer to this question: What are the chloride before we use the water vs the levels after we use the water.


lars1: Posted: April 25, 2014 8:24 a.m.

how much more money is going to the private company that weste was a director. nice to see she has the interests of those who contributed to her campaign over the public. newhall land and farm's 20,000+ home develoment can't wait for the water from these "state of the art" treatment plants.

suckers who voted for these corrupt people!


LosRubios: Posted: April 25, 2014 8:41 a.m.

If you add up the increases in the annual bills, it amounts to about $358 for each household. I wonder if they could take a different approach and simply create a reverse-osmosis style device that is installed in the home that would cost $350 that could treat the water on the way in or out of the house to remove the chloride. They did after all manage to incentivize most local homeowners to remove their salt-based water softeners a few years go and I doubt that an r-o system large to remove enough chloride from a typical household supply would be much different in size from your typical water softener. A low volume Watts Premier reverse-osmosis system to treat drinking water costs around $150 and needs $20 of new filters about twice a year as an example and if you buy enough of them, the price goes waaay down. If they took this approach, it would be affordable on a per-household basis and would alleviate the need to spend $130m on a centralized treatment plant. I realize that less unionized labor, permits and inspection fees would be need to install the r-o systems than to construct a $130m treatment facility however so this approach probably isn't as palatable an option to a politician.


missyJk: Posted: April 25, 2014 9:10 a.m.

while i applaud you for getting it lower the answer is still NO we do NOT want anymore tax increases NO if the fine costs $4.40 a year per person as 17trillios says and with 20,000 more new homes to pay it maybe the fine will than cost $4 a year i say go with fines til they fix this issue.


EgbertSouse4U: Posted: April 25, 2014 9:15 a.m.

Laurene Waste said she'll cover my bill out of all the dirty money she received.


LosRubios: Posted: April 25, 2014 10:16 a.m.

Alternatively they could also impose a $6,500 per home melo roos bond on the 20,000 new homes that are to be built and they'd get their $130m that way too. Over 13 years, it would add $500/yr to the annual property taxes or they could put half of it on the new home purchase price as an up front bond levy and half due in addition to the property tax for 6 years. They did something similar in Playa Vista where the homeowners have a melo roos bond on their annual property taxes which was used to pay for infrastructure like local roads, libraries, schools and a fire station.


stray: Posted: April 25, 2014 2:11 p.m.

@Egbert - "Laurene Waste said she'll cover my bill"

hahahahahaha ..... Don't hold your breath waiting!


lars1: Posted: April 25, 2014 4:03 p.m.

where is the money they get going? Please provide that info.

LosRubios: the chloride scam is not about reducing chloride in the water. Its about providing filtered water for the 20,000+ home newhall ranch development. The chloride limit has been around for 25 years, and nothing has been done about it until now, Why? the 20,000+ homes are starting to be built, and they need water.
It was a joke last year when the stormwater people wanted to raise rates. They do nothing, and the 5 freeway in sunland was flooded from blocked stormwater drains that the stormwater people are responsible for keeping clean.

My guess is that the unions got the people big raises and now they have to pay for it. --edited.


Allan_Cameron: Posted: April 26, 2014 2:47 a.m.

The chloride scam is a mega million dollar robbery in progress. When all of the deception is scraped away, the truth is startling.

1. This "issue" has absolutely nothing to do with the Federal Clean Water Act, or the State of California Porter Cologne Act.

2. It has to do with a critical water shortage suffered by limited interest users located west of the Sanitation District jurisdiction who are trying to get free water, payed for by Santa Clarita residents and businesses.

3. The bulk of the mega hundred dollar tax increase will be paid by local businesses, not house owners. That is why you will notice that the long story about this fraud contains not a single word, or any type of disclosure about what the costs to businesses will be. The local businesses, such a supermarkets, auto repair shops, restaurants and many more, will have to raise their prices to pay this huge tax increase. These increases will be passed on to every person in Santa Clarita, a fact again not disclosed to anyone.

4. Notice that the fact that, in this latest revision, that the fact that interest charges for the fraud will increase by more than 50 percent has not been disclosed.

5. Given the gravity of this crisis, guess how many full blown presentations in a public hearing before the Los Angeles Regional Water Control Board, presenting the overwhelming scientific basis as to why the level of 100 milligrams per liter of chloride in our discharge waters cannot be scientifically justified have taken place?

a) 10 hearings
b) 8 hearings
c) 4 hearings
d) 2 hearings
e) 1 hearing
f) 0 hearings

ANSWER: f) 0 (zero) hearings

And get this.
There are three legal opportunities made available in California State law for Santa Clarita's compelling case for this fraud to be cancelled. Guess how many of these three public hearing opportunities are scheduled, have been requested, and are being prepared??

NONE!!!

This scam is a mega hundred million dollar robbery in progress. It can be stopped, and it must be stopped.

And it will be. Please see next post.


Allan_Cameron: Posted: April 26, 2014 3:31 a.m.

Here are just two examples from a long list as to why this entire issue is such a fraud.

We are told that a chloride level above 100 milligrams per liter will damage downstream farmers crops of avocados. We are told that other downstream crops, such a tropical orchids and strawberries "may" be damaged.

For this reason, we are told that, one an emergency basis, a mega hundred million dollar tax increase must be approved immediately, in the next few weeks.

Right now, without any of this massive expense, our discharge chloride levels are at about 135 milligrams per liter in our heavily treated sewage water.

In the Simi Valley area, the Calleguas Water Shed Authority discharges water onto the Oxnard/Ventura plain. This Calleguas water irrigates identical crops of avocados, strawberries, root stock, etc. as does our water.

The fully permitted chloride level for Calleguas water is 50 PERCENT HIGHER THAN 100 MILLIGRAMS PER LITER, the level we are asked to provide.

Farmers that receive this water are grateful to get it, and report zero crop damage. Our "faithful friends" at "our" Sanitation District are quick to state that Calleguas has its own mega hundred million dollar chloride removal plant in progress.

The idea is that if Calleguas has to spend, Santa Clarita must also.

This "smoke screen" misses a costly critical point.

Santa Clarita chloride levels are at about 135 milligrams per liter, with no "treatment" at all.

Calleguas has a permitted level of 150 milligrams per liter of chloride, with no reports from ITS "downstream" farmers of any damage to crops identical to "our" downstream farmers. This Calleguas chloride level of 150 is discharged AFTER all the mega million dollar treatment has occurred.

So, if we merely had the same 150 milligram chloride level as Calleguas, our "problem" would be fully resolved at ZERO cost.

You have never been told this in any release from the Sanitation District.
For the second compelling fact (from the long list) about why this "chloride" crisis is a fraud, please see next post.


Allan_Cameron: Posted: April 26, 2014 4:09 a.m.

Here is the second of many reasons showing beyond any doubt why this "chloride" issue is a fraud.

Again, the steady justification for the mega hundred million dollar fraud and tax increase, is that downstream farmers have (or could have) suffered damage to their crops from the level of chloride in our treated sewage water.

Is there any proof that the "crop damage" is real?

Let's take a look at bed rock fact.

Santa Clarita has been discharging its treated sewage water into the Santa Clara River for nearly 50 years.

Farmers "downatream" of us have been farming the Oxnard/Ventura Plain for well over 100 years.

The chloride in the water we discharge has been above 100 milligrams per liter for most of the last 50 years.

So, if we are to believe that there is now a "crisis" of crop damage that we must now rush to correct, than that "crop damage" has to have been going on for nearly 50 years.

But has it???

Lets see.

There are six government agencies that have some form of jurisdiction over damage caused by polluted water.

Anyone who has suffered damage from water pollution is quite free to complain to any or all of these agencies. All that the "damaged parties" have to do is request that the "water polluters" be made to stop.

Have the "downstream farmers" ever sought such help in the last 50 years?

Not really.

The downstream farmers have not filed a single administrative complaint against anyone in Santa Clarita until quite recently, despite the 50 years of discharge. In addition, no "site specific", well documented proof of any damage has ever been submitted to any government agency with jurisdiction to "help".

But there is much more compelling evidence showing no lost income from crop damage to downstream farmers.

When people in this day and age suffer economic loss, they often file lawsuits to get their lost money back.

So, if downstream farmers have been suffering "crop losses" from our sewage water for nearly 50 years, how many lawsuits have they filed to get their money back???

Is it:

a) 200 lawsuits
b) 100 lawsuits
c) 50 lawsuits
d) 10 lawsuits
e) 0 lawsuits

AMSWER: A most thorough search of public records shows that for the last nearly 50 years, not a single lawsuit has ever been filed seeking monetary damage payment for crop losses due to high chloride levels.

Why no lawsuits??

When you go to court with a claim, you have to have proof.

Please pay close attention. This robbery in progress can be stopped.

It must be stopped.

It will be stopped.

Stay tuned.


missyJk: Posted: April 26, 2014 11:37 a.m.

@Allan_Cameron that is a wealth of information..it's ludicrous that they want us to pay to build a treatment plant, we have banned water softeners..did they stop to think all the salt may be from peeing out too much processed foods laden with salt why dont they ban salt in foods, that is the next health epidemic high BP from all the salt in foods.they just think us Santa Claritans have money up the yang yang I already pay $700 plus dollars on my taxes for the last 20 years to landscape the mountains and medians...come on city council sock some more to us


lars1: Posted: April 28, 2014 9:05 a.m.

Mr Cameron, you miss the reasons why this scam is progressing at the present time.
You state......"downstream farmers have been suffering "crop losses" from our sewage water for nearly 50 years"

It has become an issue NOW. WHY?

The 20,000+ home newhall ranch development is going to be fully built in the next 10 years. The developers need water, Water that will be paid by the residents and businesses of santa clarita. They know they can buy off our city council to get the public to pay for the water they need.

The council members have never supported disputing the scam limits placed on santa clarita. as you state, the limits are more severe than those in simi valley.
the city council members have resolved that a water treatment plant (providing water to newhall ranch) is a necessity, not an option.


Allan_Cameron: Posted: April 29, 2014 12:02 p.m.

Hello lars1. Just a quick note. It is a fact that downstream farmers HAVE NOT been suffering ANY crop losses from the chloride in the water they use that they get from us.

Please Let me know here if that fact is not crystal clear from what I posted earlier.

Thank you for being so steadfast in exposing this mega million dollar robbery in progress.



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