At a special meeting on chloride levels Tuesday night, the Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously to ask the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District for an extension on the public comment period.
If the request is approved, the public comment period would end July 24, a 30-day extension of the original 60-day comment period.
Sanitation District officials must complete an Environmental Impact Report by Oct. 31, which demonstrates to the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board how they plan to reduce chloride levels for the SCV’s watershed.
The most recent deadline was created in a deal struck by Sanitation District officials to lower a fine the state levied because the district missed a previous deadline.
Mentioning her experience involving projects with large EIRs, Councilwoman Marsha McLean said the public should have more time to learn about the issue and express their opinions.
The chloride mandate is a complicated and potentially expensive issue for the Santa Clarita Valley, McLean said.
The council would like to ensure that residents understand the issue. They ultimately want to find the least expensive way to comply.
On Tuesday, a Sanitation District spokesman said district officials are leary of extending the deadline more than 15 days, because the longer the public comment period lasts, the less time district engineers have to analyze those comments and prepare the EIR.
“To meet the Oct. 31 deadline, we could accommodate a short extension, a week or two — if we’re going to meet that Oct. 31 deadline,” said Basil Hewitt, a Sanitation District senior engineer.
The chloride solutions being proposed by the district could mean a $10- or $20-per-month increase in residential sewer rates; businesses could face much higher expenses, according to district documents.
“Our job is to protect our residents and our businesses,” McLean said. “We have no power to say no (to the board). We must comply with state and federal rules and regulations.”
The initial motion at the council meeting asked for a 60-day extension, which was not seconded.
When asked about an extension by city officials, Sanitation District officials suggested a 15-day window.
“The Sanitation District has to look at all those comments and respond,” McLean said. “That’s a pretty tight deadline.”
Failure to complete the EIR on time would result in heavy fines that would be borne by the Sanitation District and ratepayers across the SCV, Hewitt said.
Meeting that deadline and avoiding fines is a top priority for the Sanitation District, Hewitt said.
“We don’t want to compromise our ability to meet the Oct. 31 deadline,” he said.
Whether or not the extension is approved, there are still two public hearings scheduled in the near future:
* Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Stevenson Ranch Elementary School
* Thursday, June 13, 7 p.m. at Sulphur Springs Elementary School
Perry Smith of KHTS contributed to this report.