Everything you ever wanted to know about chloride in the Santa Clara River, the plan to reduce the river’s chloride levels to satisfy downstream Ventura County farmers of salt-sensitive crops, the lawsuit which halted that plan, benchmarks missed as a result, promises broken and the threat of fines that fall to you, the ratepayer, are expected to be made public Friday.
Officials with the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District plan to unveil Friday their revamped assessment of the impact its four-year chloride-reducing plan is expected to have on the SCV environment.
Their Final Recirculated Environmental Impact Report is expected to include the feedback provided by ratepayers and others who commented on the EIR during a recent public review period.
Why was the report revamped?
A lawsuit filed by a group of unhappy SCV ratepayers convinced a judge to send sanitation officials back to the drawing board – yet again – to tailor their plan according to a couple of key environmental concerns,
The judge told the sanitation officials to stop working on their chloride-reduction plan until the concerns were addressed.
The work stoppage, however, broke a promise made to state water officials in October 2014 that a rigid 4-year timetable of benchmarks would be met in an effort to reduce the amount of salty chloride discharged into the river.
Downstream farmers claim chloride levels over 100 milligrams per liter in river water crossing the Ventura County line damages their salt-sensitive crops like strawberries and avocados.
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is charged with safeguarding water quality in the Los Angeles area, heard a promise from sanitation officials in October 2014 that the plan would be put in place and benchmarks met along the way.
When a benchmark is missed, the state can fine the local sanitation district tens of thousands of dollars as it did in November 2012 when it was ordered to pay a $225,000 fine for having failed to deliver on a prior promise.
The cost of such a fine would be paid by SCV ratepayers in rate increases imposed on anyone who uses SCV’s sewer system.
Will the state fine the SCV Sanitation District as it did four years ago?
One district official told The Signal Thursday the state’s position remains unclear.
“It is unclear to us what action the (Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board) will take and we are focused on doing what we can control—addressing the issues required by the Court and moving towards compliance as quickly as possible,” sanitation district spokesman Bryan Langpap told The Signal Thursday.
“We are under a mandate to meet the state’s chloride mandate under a specified schedule,” he said.
“Due to the delays from litigation, we are no longer able to meet those deadlines. The Regional Board has authority to take enforcement action,” he said.
“A Final Recirculated EIR is being prepared that provides responses to all comments received during the public review period,” Langpap said.
“We expect to release that Final Recirculated EIR document on or about Friday, Aug. 18,” he said.
By the end of the month, the three members of the SCV Sanitation District Board of Directors are expected to certify the revamped EIR at a meeting scheduled for Aug. 30, at 6:00 pm at Santa Clarita City Hall.
Ratepayers and the public at large are expected to have a chance to express themselves during public comment at the meeting.
The 2013 Environmental Impact Report was challenged in court delaying the Chloride Compliance and Recycled Water Projects until additional study of endangered unarmored threespine stickleback fish, associated with the Recycled Water Project, was completed, Langpap said.
The stickleback fish had been cited in the lawsuit filed by a group of SCV ratepayers.
“Work to complete the additional stickleback study will take longer than anticipated due to the extensive regulatory consultation necessary,” he said.
It described how separating the Recycled Water Project from its four-year plan would reduce impacts on the environment.
The report to be unveiled Friday does not change the plan promised to state officials in 2014 to reduce the amount of chloride it discharges into the Santa Clara River.
It still consists of advanced treatment facilities including reverse osmosis, enhanced brine concentration equipment at the Valencia Water Reclamation Plant on The Old Road, and limited trucking of the concentrated brine out of the SCV.
District officials see an average of six trucks per day, 10 maximum, during off-peak hours when the plan goes into effect.
The brine is then trucked out of the SCV to an existing industrial facility – the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts’ Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson.
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