The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District released the following information Thursday about its efforts to comply with the state-mandated limit on chloride (salt) in the treated wastewater (sewage) discharged by all homes and businesses connected to the Santa Clarita Valley’s sewer system.
The SCV Sanitation District (SCVSD) has proposed allowing up to a one-third reduction in the discharge of treated water from its two water reclamation plants so that more recycled water could be reused by the community. The SCVSD previously analyzed the potential environmental impacts of this proposal including impacts to unarmored threespine stickleback (an endangered fish). A court has ruled that additional study of potential impacts to the stickleback is needed before the chloride compliance project can proceed.
The SCVSD had been on track to implement the chloride compliance project by the State-mandated deadline of July 2019 prior to an adverse Court ruling on a third-party lawsuit regarding SCVSD’s environmental documents for the project. The Court ruling makes it more difficult for the SCVSD to meet interim and final compliance deadlines. Missing a deadline could result in steep State fines that SCV property owners would have to pay. The SCVSD is committed to complying with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act while diligently working to meet compliance deadlines. The SCVSD continues to keep the Regional Board informed about the project’s status.
The SCVSD is embarking on a new, focused environmental review process to comply with the Court’s order. This process will include ample opportunity for public comment, including information meetings and hearings. Two meetings will be held on August 22, 2016, at 1:30 PM and 7:00 PM at the Santa Clarita Activities Center, located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita, CA 91350. Additional meetings will be scheduled when the draft environmental document is released for public review.
Narrative / Fact Sheet
The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District (SCVSD) is the public agency responsible for treating Santa Clarita Valley’s wastewater (sewage). The SCVSD operates two treatment plants, the Saugus Water Reclamation Plant (WRP) and Valencia WRP, which discharge highly treated water to the Santa Clara River. The treated water must comply with a number of state and federal requirements to protect beneficial uses of the river’s water including a strict limit on the level of chloride (salt) that was set in 2002. The SCVSD has spent more than ten years attempting to achieve the most reasonable chloride limit possible and develop the most cost-effective and environmentally-responsible solution.
In 2013, after nearly two years of extensive public input, meetings, hearings, and environmental review, the SCVSD Board of Directors approved a project to comply with the State-mandated chloride limit and certified that the associated Environmental Impact Report (2013 EIR) complied with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The approved chloride compliance project included new reverse osmosis equipment at the Valencia WRP. The water that has passed through a reverse osmosis membrane becomes ultra-clean water and the remaining salty water becomes a byproduct called brine that requires proper disposal. The brine would be managed with enhanced brine concentration equipment at the Valencia WRP and limited trucking of concentrated brine to an existing industrial facility, the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts’ Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson. A Supplemental Environmental Impact Report for Brine Concentration and Limited Trucking (Trucking SEIR) was prepared to describe the environmental impacts from this brine management approach. On March 23, 2016, the SCVSD Board of Directors certified the Final Trucking SEIR as complying with CEQA and approved the brine management approach.
The approved project in the 2013 EIR also contained a component titled “Support for Municipal Reuse of Recycled Water” that involved reducing WRP discharges of recycled water to the SCR so that more recycled water could be reused by the community. The 2013 EIR contained an analysis of the potential environmental impacts to biological resources, including an endangered fish known as the unarmored threespine stickleback (stickleback), that could occur due to a proposed one-third reduction in discharge. This analysis concluded that no significant impact would occur.
The 2013 EIR was challenged in court. While the Trucking SEIR was being finalized, the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a ruling on the adequacy of the 2013 EIR. The Court found that two aspects of the 2013 EIR did not fully comply with CEQA. First, the Court directed the SCVSD to conduct additional environmental study on potential impacts to stickleback. Second, the Court considered the SCVSD’s pursuit of the trucking method of brine management to be an “abandonment” of the method approved in the 2013 EIR, leaving the SCVSD with an incomplete chloride compliance project. The Court did not find fault with the environmental review related to the chloride compliance project components. The Court, nonetheless, set aside the 2013 EIR and related approvals until the SCVSD addresses both issues.
With the March 23, 2016 certification of the Trucking SEIR and approval of a new brine management approach, the SCVSD addressed the Court’s second issue. A Supplemental EIR process is beginning in August 2016 to address the remaining issue from the February 2016 ruling—additional study of impacts to stickleback from reduced discharge.
The additional environmental review of stickleback impacts must be completed to enable the chloride compliance project to move forward.