Stacy Fortner: Election funds linked to water access?

People testify remotely about the proposed Chiquita Canyon Landfill expansion at the Stevenson Ranch Library during a hearing in April. The issue is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

During the November campaign Chiquita Canyon Landfill was a major contributor to the Castaic Lake Water Agency incumbents’ re-election campaigns, with the largest contribution ($3,000) given to Bill Cooper, one of the chief proponents of the proposal to merge Castaic Lake Water Agency with Newhall County Water District and also pull in Valencia Water Company. That would put this giant water agency in charge of all the water and recycled water in our valley.

What is the goal for the landfill, which has an application pending with the county to expand?

Chiquita Canyon Landfill currently gets its water from an agricultural water well owned by Newhall Land and Farming/Lennar. The landfill uses this water for irrigation, fire prevention and dust control.

Since this well is not approved as a potable water source, according to Chiquita, its employees are provided with bottled water to drink.

The landfill’s environmental impact report states: “Under an existing agreement between Chiquita Canyon Landfill (CCL) and (landowner) Newhall Land and Farming (NLF), once the latter has need for the water currently provided by its irrigation well, which is expected to occur in the foreseeable future, the landfill will cease to use the NLF irrigation well.

“Instead, CCL will use a separate water supply line that connects to VWC’s (Valencia Water Company’s) system and which is currently used as a source of water for construction projects.”

In other words, the landfill does not have a source of water for its expansion project. It must therefore hook up to a water supply agency. Also, a letter from the county Department of Health Services states that the landfill must receive a potable water supply from a local purveyor for its employees.

Chiquita Canyon Landfill is not in the service territory of any water agency. It is not within Valencia Water Company boundaries, yet VWC has promised to supply it anyway. The Health Department said the landfill must have a “will serve” letter – a document that promises to supply water needs.

Valencia Water produced a water supply assessment for the dump saying “CLWA and VWC plan to deliver a reliable and high-quality water supply for their customer, even during dry periods.”  How could Valencia promise this when the landfill is not within its territory and Castaic Lake Water Agency is a wholesaler, not supposed to be pumping and serving groundwater?

The handy thing about Sen. Scott Wilk’s water merger bill, which would combine the Santa Clarita Valley water retailers with Castaic Lake as one overarching valleywide water district (with the exception of county Waterworks District 36), is that if it is approved, Chiquita Canyon Landfill will be annexed into the Valencia Water Co. or be served directly by the consolidated single water district without following any of the currently required public review processes for annexations.

How is that?

First, Wilk’s water bill specifically states that Valencia does not have to follow the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) process, so the water district whose stock is entirely owned by Castaic Lake Water Agency will just take over the area without any of the legally required LAFCO reviews for all service area extensions. One of those reviews is for adequate water supply to serve any new area extension.

Or, second, Wilk’s bill will give the new super water agency (which covers the current Castaic Lake Water Agency) “county water district powers,” one of which is the ability to pump and serve groundwater.

Under the second option, CLWA could drill new water wells in the area and pump and serve the landfill directly. This may put a huge stress on the aquifer in that area, but no annexation review will be required so that would go unaddressed.

Newhall Ranch, directly across Highway 126 from the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, was originally supposed to receive its water from agricultural wells. But newer environmental documents call for that 21,000-home development to use existing wells closer to the Commerce Center.

Why? Is there a potential water pollution problem from the unlined portions of the landfill? Perhaps so, based on water quality reports from the monitoring wells. These reports are required quarterly, and results must be submitted to the Regional Water Quality Control Board. They show low levels of PCE, TCE and herbicides. Although most have not exceeded health limits yet, their presence is worrisome.

Getting rid of the LAFCO review for annexations will be a big benefit for Chiquita Canyon Landfill and Newhall Ranch. It will eliminate public scrutiny into water supply and water quality issues that would otherwise be required in the LAFCO process.

Is this the connection between Chiquita Canyon Landfill and Castaic Lake Water Agency’s takeover of our water supply?


Related To This Story

Latest NEWS