The threat of hefty environmental fines loom over the Santa Clarita Valley after sanitation officials told state water regulators they would not be able to meet the benchmark they promised in their pledge to reduce the amount of chloride ending up in the Santa Clara River.
Officials were set to have delivered a four-year chloride reduction plan in a month April, however, a lawsuit filed by a group of unhappy SCV taxpayers resulted in a judge ordering the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District to stop work on the plan, causing the district to fall behind schedule.
Its four-year plan to reduce salty chloride concentration in river water was approved by the state in October 2014. Attached to the plan was a rigid schedule of benchmarks set in place to ensure the work was being carried out by specific dates.
The next benchmark – or interim deadline – is set for Apr. 12 when the district is expected to deliver to state water officials a “complete design” for its planned reduction of chloride.
The district, however, won’t be able to hit that mark, District spokesman Bryan Langpap told The Signal.
“We informed the (Los Angeles) Regional Water Quality Control Board that we can’t meet that deadline,” he said. “We’ve told them that, but we haven’t gotten a response yet.
“We’re hoping for some understanding,” Langpap said. “We’re doing the best we can.”
The last time the sanitation district was found to be out of compliance over its chloride reduction plan, it was fined more than a quarter of a million dollars by the regional water board. That occurred in November 2012.
The regional board fined the district $280,250 for having violated conditions of its permit to discharge chloride into the Santa Clara River.
Will the same water regulatory board issue a fine this time?
“How they will react in April remains to be seen,” Langpap said.
Any state fine levied against the district, would ultimately be paid by the district’s ratepayers of which there are about 72,000 customer connections, Langpap said Monday. All SCV residents on the sewer system are ratepayers.
How much would the fine be if it was issued?
Andrew DiLuccia, spokesman for the State Water Resources Control Board, told The Signal Monday the fine could be $10,000 a day for each of the district’s two water treatment plants “plus $10 for every gallon discharged.”
At the same time sanitation officials are going to miss the chloride reduction plan benchmark, they’re also on the hook for producing a revised environmental study.
Last week, sanitation officials announced they were releasing a revised version of its 2013 Chloride Compliance Environmental Impact Report as the next step in complying with a strict state-mandated limit on the amount of chloride allowed in treated wastewater discharged to the Santa Clara River.
The actual report is expected to be made available to the public in April – the same month district officials were expected to meet a crucial work benchmark.
“Things are slower going than we thought,” Langpap said, referring to the process of tweaking its environmental impact report to satisfy the judge who questioned it.
In June, sanitation officials stopped all work on their four-year chloride reduction plan when a judge ordered them to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more environmentally-friendly plan.
The revised plan was unveiled Friday with the understanding that the public be given a chance to weigh in on the changes.
Santa Clarita Valley residents are invited to attend “informational meetings” at the Santa Clarita Activities Center located at 20880 Centre Point Parkway at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on March 7.
As well, anyone wanting to comment on the district’s analysis of its anticipated impact on the environment must have their comments submitted by March 20, 2017.
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