[KHTS] – The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District lost its appeal Friday of state-mandated chloride cleanup.
The state would have had to develop a funding mechanism to cover the cost of chloride treatment if Sanitation District officials had prevailed before the Commission on State Mandates. They didnt’, so the state doesn’t.
“Despite this disappointing decision, we must still build advanced treatment facilities to comply with regulatory limits and to avoid significant fines,” said Grace Robinson Chan, the chief engineer and general manager of the Sanitation District. “However, as directed by our board, we will continue to actively seek ways to reduce costs and minimize impacts to our ratepayer.”
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Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, testified in front of the Commission on State Mandates board in response to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board Test Claim for the Upper Santa Clara River Chloride requirements being imposed on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District.
Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste and Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston also joined Wilk.
“We were not surprised today that the State Commission denied the claim that the chloride limit set by the state for recycled water discharged into the Santa Clara River is an unfunded state mandate,” Weste said in a statement. “We fully expected that the Commission would agree with their staff recommendation on this issue. We were impressed with the support we received from our Assemblymember Scott Wilk, and we appreciated Supervisor Don Saylor’s (a member of the State commission) comments that Santa Clarita had ardent representation on behalf of our residents on this issue.”
The Sanitation District will be looking to find other ways to pay for the project, such as grants, bonds and revolving funds, which could offer low-interest loans, to “find ways to minimize the impact” for district ratepayers.
The Sanitation District filed the reimbursement claim with the Commission on State Mandates on March 31, 2011, to protect local homeowners and businesses from having to pay for state-mandated chloride removal facilities that will cost approximately $130 million.
“There is no sound science to support a chloride standard of 100 parts per million that the Board is requiring Santa Clarita Valley to meet,” Wilk Said. “Requiring 265,000 residents to shoulder the burden of $130 million capital cost and $4.1 million in annual operating costs to discharge water in a better condition than we receive from the State Water Project defies logic.”
Federal law states that water must be cleaned up to a standard that benefits downstream users.
Santa Clara River Valley downstream users include avocado and strawberry farmers, as well as nursery plants.
“The city of Thousand Oaks, which is also under the authority of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and has the same downstream users of avocado, strawberry and nursery plant farmers, has to comply with a chloride standard of 150 parts per million,” Wilk said. “If Santa Clarita Valley residents were held to the same standard as Thousand Oaks we would not be before you today.”
The Commission on State Mandates Board ultimately came to a final vote of 5-0 with one abstention to uphold the unfunded mandate placing the responsibility at the local level.