A local water official weighed in Thursday on the options deemed feasible for the Santa Clarita Valley’s watershed, which were released by Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District engineers this week.
The plans are to make sure our runoff meets state-mandated chloride levels, and to avoid what could amount to billions of dollars per year in fines, according to state water officials.
> RIGHT-CLICK TO DOWNLOAD THE FULL PLAN/EIR [HERE]. (Note: It’s long and might take a while.)
The recently released report details four options, with one being more cost effective than the others for Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers, according to Dan Masnada, general manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency and board member for the Valencia Water Co.
“I advocated for the Phase IV of the alternative water resources management (AWRM), plan,” Masnada said Thursday, after a presentation to the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. on the options.
“The UV installation at both the Saugus and Valencia reclamation plants eliminates the need for chlorine as a disinfectant – that actually adds some chloride,” Masnada said. “By replacing the chlorine that’s added and using UV for purposes of disinfecting water, (the chloride load will be lowered).”
But all of the options have a price tag for ratepayers.
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For comparison, the current annual sewer service charge rate is $231 per sewage unit and projected to increase to $270 by fiscal year 2019-20, with no construction.
The most attractive of the four options would raise the cost to Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers to approximately $395 per year, which would be an increase of $125, or about 46 percent, for single-family homeowners.
For businesses, the rate increase would be about $3,324 per year for a stand-alone restaurant. Restaurant owners’ cost would go from a projected cost of about $7,176 to about $10,500 each year.
These projected increases would take place in 2019-20, once the plant is constructed and operable, according to the documents.
“One of the things people need to understand is that we’ve fought incredibly hard to get this limit increased to save local ratepayers from the cost of having to build chloirde-removal facilities,” said Basil Hewitt, senior engineer with the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District.
“Now, we have a deadline of Oct. 31 of this year. If we don’t meet that deadline, there will be the potential for significant fines from the state’s board,” Hewitt said.
Those increases could double if Phase II of alternative IV is implemented, but Masnada said water officials are not planning on that taking place.
“It’s a calculated risk – but it’s been calculated,” Masnada said.
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The phased AWRM alternative consists of two phases: Phase I includes UV disinfection, supplemental water and groundwater wells and distribution piping in the Piru groundwater basin located in Ventura County just west of the Los Angeles-Ventura County line, according to an executive summary released by the Sanitation District.
Phase II would add advanced treatment (MF/RO), brine minimization and potentially a pipeline from the Valencia WRP to Ventura County to supply RO product water.
The bottom line is that the district is being compelled by the state to create several options that are expected to impact ratepayers starting in 2019-20, according to Sanitation District documents.
The state sets the levels in accordance with the Clean Water Act, which dictates that water-discharge levels must meet the requirements of downstream users.
The state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board currently permits a level of 117 milligrams per liter of chloride, which was set in accordance with the needs of Ventura County avocado growers, according to state documents.
The Santa Clarita Valley watershed currently discharges water with a chloride level of approximately 120-124 milligrams of chloride per liter. The UV treatment is expected to reduce chloride levels by approximately 10 milligrams per liter, according to Masnada.
The currently permitted limit is set to expire in October, which would then put the district’s maximum allowable level at 100 milligrams per liter, which is a federal standard.
The derivation of that figure was subject to a heated debate Tuesday, after a presentation by Sam Unger, executive officer for the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board.
“Under federal and state law, the state has ordered the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District to reduce the chloride levels in the SCV’s treated wastewater to below the state’s strict legal limit,” according to the Sanitation District’s executive summary.
“There was no message there that they were going to relax the TMDL,” Masnada said, referring to the state board’s position.
In 2010, the city passed an ordinance banning water softeners, offering a rebate for residents who turned in the units, which add chloride to the area’s effluence.
This helped bring down the city’s effluence from 200 milligrams of chloride per liter to about 130.
“We’ve had a reduction (in chloride levels), and we’re appreciative of this. And we recognize this, and that the city has taken measures,” said Maria Mehranian, chair of the state’s Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. “However, it’s discouraging that the city has not met the goal. There is the willingness and good faith in working with the city in order to meet their goals and accomplished the goals of the Clean Water Act.”
Last year, the district’s failure to meet a state-mandated deadline to produce the documents released Wednesday led to a $280,000 fine, which was noted by Unger in his presentation to Santa Clarita City Council.
The fine was later negotiated to a lesser penalty.
“Sam Unger has been instrumental in our cooperative approach with the local Sanitation District,” Mehranian said. “As you know we have been working for a long time on this, and as a board we’re encouraged. It’s been a longstanding issue.”