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January 27
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[KHTS] – The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board approved a rate hike for local ratepayers Monday in what officials called the most “cost-effective solution” to meet a state-mandated chloride limit.

The state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board set a limit for the amount of chloride, or salt, that can be in the water sent from local treatment plants to downstream users in Ventura County.

“Theres nothing here that I’m comfortable with, but I will say this — there is no choice,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste, who holds one of three spots on the county board that approved the rate hike, at Monday’s hearing. “There is no choice but to find a way to get the lowest cost to the ratepayer.”

chlorideThis claim was disputed by residents who spoke at several hearings about the rate hike, who criticized the plan and the process.

City Councilman TimBen Boydston called the situation “a failure of leadership”; Sam Unger, the executive director for the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, said more fines would be likely if the Sanitation District failed to address the chloride mandate.

Those fines would be paid by Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers, officials said.

The chloride limit was set at 100 milligrams per liter, which many claimed was capricious and arbitrary; however, state officials claimed science was on their side.

“In this district, the current service charge rate per single-family home is $20.58 per month and $247 per year,” according to Sanitation District officials.

The proposed rates for the next six years are $22.25 per month, or $267 per year in 2014-15; $23.92 per month ($287 per year) the following year; $25.58 per month ($307 per year) the year after that; $27.33 per month ($328 per year) in 2017-18; $29.08 per month ($349 per year) in 2018-19; and $30.83 per month ($370 per year) in 2019-20.

Santa Clarita Valley sewage officials formally introduced a rate hike last Monday in order to pay for a state-mandated chloride-compliance plan expected to total about $205 million, Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District officials said.

Many accused the two Santa Clarita City Council members on the Sanitation District board, Weste and Bob Kellar, of not fighting hard enough for a change in the state’s chloride limit.

The state’s Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board is a state-appointed agency that oversees the permitting of the Santa Clarita Valley’s water-treatment plants.

While the need and science behind the move was scrutinized for more than two hours, Sanitation District officials said ultimately, if the district doesn’t comply, fines will be steep and inevitable for ratepayers.

Had the Sanitation District’s governing board — represented by Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste and City Councilman Bob Kellar — not approved the rate increase, then ratepayers would have faced more than $52 million in fines from the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, officials said. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich did not attend the meeting.

“The discharge level has been set at 100 milligrams per liter,” said Phil Friess, justifying the district’s need to raise rates and explaining a relationship with the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board that’s vacillated between cooperation and contention over the last 10 years.

Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston called the situation Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers were in as the result of a “failure of leadership” on behalf of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District’s governing board.

Boydston and several other attacked the science used to justify the state’s limit for salt in the water sent downstream to Ventura County farmers. calling it junk science and asking why a field study wasn’t commissioned earlier to prove the SCV effluence wasn’t damaging crops.

“They’ve never been able to show us where there are any damaged crops from chloride,” Boydston said.

 

SANITATION DISTRICT STATEMENT

Santa Clarita, CA – The Board of Directors of the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) Sanitation District voted unanimously last night to adopt rates to fund the continued operation of the existing sewerage facilities and to fund the Chloride Compliance Project needed to meet the State-mandated chloride (salt) limit for the Santa Clarita Valley’s two wastewater (sewage) treatment plants. The Board also approved a resolution directing staff to collaborate with the Castaic Lake Water Agency, the four SCV water retailers (Los Angeles County Waterworks District 36, Newhall County Water District, CLWA Santa Clarita Water Division, and the Valencia Water Company), and the Valley’s business and civic organizations to develop a comprehensive plan for using as much of the recycled water as possible to advance local water sustainability in the SCV and to benefit the Valley’s parks, golf courses and landscaping.

For over ten years, the SCV Sanitation District repeatedly challenged the State’s chloride (salt) limit, but was not successful in getting the State limit changed. State regulators have stated that they were prepared to enforce deadlines and issue fines. The SCV Sanitation District’s Board action meets State timelines for setting rates for the Chloride Compliance Project, and ensures that changes requested of the State that could lower costs to ratepayers and prevent State fines can move forward through the State and Federal approval process.

District Chief Engineer and General Manager, Grace Hyde, stated, “The SCV Sanitation District worked hard to lower the cost to ratepayers as much as possible to meet the State-mandated chloride limit and to protect Valley property owners from State fines. We will continue to work hard to get State and Federal approval of the changes we need to lower the costs further and to extend the State’s compliance deadline.”

“This project will give us a source of very high quality recycled water that we can use to create local water sustainability in the Santa Clarita Valley and help reduce our dependence on expensive imported state water,” said District Board Member Laurene Weste. “I am very proud that we were able to lower the costs of complying with the State chloride mandate in the Valley. We will keep working with the State to get changes in the project that are environmentally sound and will reduce costs even further, and any savings will be passed to our ratepayers.”

Added District Board Member Bob Kellar, “This is a practical business decision that is in the best interest of all residents and businesses of the Santa Clarita Valley. We are focused on moving forward and on collaborating with all our water agencies and business leaders to keep this valuable water asset here in the Valley to benefit our region.”

The District held six public information meetings throughout the Santa Clarita Valley to provide an opportunity to discuss the proposed rates with District staff, gave three tours of the Valencia Water Reclamation Plant, met with business and industry organizations, Town Councils and Advisory Committees, and mailed 69,702 individual notices in accordance with Proposition 218. A public hearing was held on June 30th to receive official public comment.

The portion of the approved rate for the Chloride Compliance Project will be phased in gradually over six years, and will be $8.33 per month for a single family home by 2019. The rate increase related to the Chloride Compliance Project in 2014-15 will be $1.33 per month for a single family home. The District’s next steps are to seek State and Federal approvals of a 4-year extension of the State’s May 2015 construction deadline to prevent the SC Valley from being subject to State fines next year, and technical changes to the chloride compliance project needed to reduce project costs. The extension and changes must be approved before May of 2015 by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles, the State Water Resources Control Board, the State Office of Administrative Law and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The SCV Sanitation District is responsible for the treatment and management of all the sewage discharged to the sewer system in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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1 Comment

  1. Scott says:

    Why are we forced to foot the bill for the farmer’s cost of doing business? Home owners and businesses are responsible for damage the lousy water does, and treat their own water. Needless to say, if the water company was doing it’s job that wouldn’t be necessary.

    According the the 2014 water quality survey, the waster is already delivered with a range of 65-120 mg/L of chloride, with a mean value of 96 mg/L. Let me phrase that differently. The water we drink already is already at the limit of what the sanitation board says we are allowed to discharge. So the water is good enough to put in and on our bodies, but not good enough for plants.

    I would like to see the city council do their jobs and represent the people, by suing the state water quality board over their arbitrary chloride limit. Do they have what it takes? Or are they spineless cowards bowing to what the state says. Or is there some conflicting interest?

    If we’re having a gun held to our heads to treat the water, why not treat it BEFORE it gets to our taps so the people paying for it actually get some benefit out of it?

    Then again, the whole situation is SOP for California’s policy of “screw the tax payers”.

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