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Sanitation District ups rates for chloride-removal system

Posted: July 7, 2014 8:37 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2014 8:37 p.m.

Saying they don’t like the decision any more than the handful of people who complained about it, Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District directors voted Monday night to increase local sewage rates to pay for a chloride-removal system.

The district, which encompasses all areas on the sewer system within the Santa Clarita Valley, is being required by state law to reduce salt in wastewater dumped into the Santa Clara River to no more than 100 milligrams per liter of discharged water.

Building a system to accomplish that will be funded by an increase in sewage rates that will be phased in over six years’ time. Rates for single-family homes are expected to gradually increase to about $100 a year per single-family home within six years.

The rates for businesses would vary depending upon the quantity of water they use and the amount of pollution they discharge.

A handful of residents protested the rate increase during the district meeting Monday night at Santa Clarita City Hall.

 “I’m still astounded … that the rate is so ridiculously low,” said Castaic Area Town Council member Flo Lawrence of the 100 mg/L level required by the state to meet levels of chloride – a naturally occurring element that with sodium makes up common table salt – in water discharged by the Santa Clarita Valley’s two water treatment plants.

District directors reminded the 30 or so people at the meeting that they have battled the 100 mg/L level – which is considerably lower than accepted levels in most California regions – for some 10 years and face deadlines or steep fines from state officials. Those fines would be passed on to the district’s ratepayers.

“I’m openly in agreement with some of the comments made here tonight,” Director Bob Kellar said. “But we are bound by the laws of the state of California. Ladies and gentlemen, we have no choice.”

“To leave this burden on the ratepayer is totally unfair,” county Supervisor Michael Antonovich said.

Noting the county faces possible stormwater cleanup fees imposed by the same state agency that set the chloride limit, Antonovich said, “The (state) Legislature, the governor and federal legislative bodies need to put this at the top of the list and stop ignoring it.” He called for state and federal grants to fund programs like the salt-removal system being required of the SCV Sanitation District.

Sam Unger, chief administrator for the regional Water Quality Control Board that imposed the chloride level, said members of that board have passed along to him “very strong instruction to work cooperatively” with local officials to secure grants or any other avenues of reducing the cost of the chloride-removal system.

At the same time, he said, the water quality board has been “very supportive of the (100 mg/L salt) standard for a dozen years now.”

The district’s Board of Directors, made up of two Santa Clarita City Council members and one county supervisor, passed two ordinances Monday night that will increase sewage rates per single-family home to $370 a year by the 2019-20 fiscal year. Sewage fees are paid on property tax bills.

By comparison, other cities’ sewage rates for the 2014-15 year are $404.40 in Glendale and $926.52 in Santa Paula.


ricketzz: Posted: July 8, 2014 10:30 a.m.

I thought the fee was going to be based on historical water use. I try to keep under 100 gals a day.

src: Posted: July 8, 2014 1:52 p.m.

The water comes out of the tap at an average 96 mg/L already according to the 2014 water survey, with a range of 65-120 mg/L.

Looks like it's time for the people of Santa Clarita to sue the state and the sanitation board. Any council members want to take that up? Tim Ben? Anyone?

Allan_Cameron: Posted: July 8, 2014 2:08 p.m.

The Executive Director of the Los Angeles Regional Water Control Board, Sam Unger, confirmed again on July 7 what he confirmed on June 30.

That is, that, unlike what has been said incessantly by the Sanitation District, the Water Board has NEVER had any discussion on any agenda about fining the Sanitation District.

All the representations by the Sanitation District on that subject turn out to be false. Even with repeated questioning from the "dias", Mr. Unger stuck to the truth, which is that no fines are contemplated by the Water Board, predicated on the Sanitation District raising rates in Santa Clarita.

This "fines" issue would make quite a good newspaper story.

This message has been removed due to a violation.

llittlejohn: Posted: July 8, 2014 2:45 p.m.

For a comprehensive, award-winning, five-part series on the Regional Water Quality Control Board and its enforcement abilities using fines to impose its standards, visit

For a story on the most recent fine levied by the Regional Water Quality Control Board on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District, imposed two years after the "Water Enforcers" series ran, visit

At Monday night's meeting, as the story notes, Unger stated the Regional Water Quality Control Board has been, “very supportive of the (100 mg/L salt) standard for a dozen years now.”

After that, Mr. Unger proceeded to outline the types of fines that could be levied against the Sanitation District - including mandatory fines that the board would have to levy even if it didn't want to - and followed that with a reminder that if a chloride-treatment plant weren't built by the May 15, 2015, deadline, the district would be "out of compliance with your operating permit."

Lila Littlejohn
Signal City Editor

src: Posted: July 8, 2014 3:11 p.m.

Santa Clarita water - good enough to drink, but not good enough for watering plants.

Allan_Cameron: Posted: July 8, 2014 3:46 p.m.

Another story that awaits is that the Sanitation District has been "out of compliance" with its operating permits since March, 2014, since the permits for both SCV sewage plants expired on that date. No effort to renew these "mandatory" discharge permits appears to be under way, and no fines for discharging into the river with an expired permit have been proposed or assessed.

Another story that awaits is that, when the frequently cited $225,000 fine was assessed against all of us, through "our" Sanitation District, routine, standard administrative appeals were waived, and the money just paid. The waived administrative appeals process would have culminated in a full blown public hearing in front of the Regional Water Control Board, wherein the truth about "chloride" could have been told. "Our" Sanitation District ignored this standard, "golden" opportunity.

Three "Water Board" hearings in the last twelve months have been held in suburban communities, two in Simi City Hall. The last hearing of the "Water Board" in Santa Clarita was in the middle of the day, eight years ago.

The critical, key issue is not what "could" be done. The key issue is what was actually done, or not done. The key issue is "did the Water Board, as part of any communication, letter, agenda report, board discussion, memorandum, public hearing, verbal warning, etc., ever communicate an intention to fine "our" Sanitation District if it did not raise its rates by July of 2014??"

As Sam Unger confirmed, on TV, twice, once on June 30, and again on July 7, the answer is no. These contradictions contrast completely with what the Sanitation District has been saying, over and over and over.

The above items would make for great stories in the Signal.

The local reporters for the Signal work extremely hard. What they deserve, and clearly are not getting, is support from the Morris Newspaper Company in Georgia. There are only so many hours in a day, and the remaining Signal folks are overworked and underpaid.

That has to stop. Letters and calls to Morris in Georgia would be a start. The good folks at the Signal deserve help from this community.

lars1: Posted: July 8, 2014 8:55 p.m.

Now that Newhall Land and Farms has the water they need for the 20,000+ homes, their bought off buddies will fail again on the CEMEX mine.

The CEMEX mine will provide the concrete that Newhall Land and Farms needs to build the 20,000+ homes.

missyJk: Posted: July 9, 2014 1:18 a.m.

they did lie and say it would be based on water usage in their pamphlet

ricketzz: Posted: July 9, 2014 8:49 a.m.

Thank's Missy! That's how I remember it too. I have been very carefully conserving water so I don't get dinged the same as a big family. 20% less is difficult now. Bring on the rock and roll road baths.

Cam: Posted: July 9, 2014 12:17 p.m.

lars1 you are the only one that got it right.

Cam: Posted: July 9, 2014 12:21 p.m.

Cam: lar1 You are the only one that got it right. Thank you

lars1: Posted: July 10, 2014 1:54 p.m.

What can we do now?

Allan_Cameron: Posted: July 11, 2014 3:21 a.m.

We can do, and are doing a great deal. These taxes are subject to voter initiative, as well as referendum. The shameful "prop 218 protest vote", where supposedly 70,000 notices were sent out, and 52 were returned is not the end. It is just the beginning.

There is far more going on. Don't give in. Get started.

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