In a letter dated March 16, the new Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency was notified that it was being fined $183,000 for water pollution violations by its Valencia division. It has owned the Valencia division since it took over that company from Lennar in 2012 in a move not previously sanctioned by law, but later allowed by the Legislature. Now that the takeover of all our water agencies in the Santa Clarita Valley is complete, this new agency is the responsible party.
Valencia Water Co. has several wells that have been closed due to ammonium perchlorate pollution. One well (V201) located close to City Hall, has been closed because of this pollution for many years. The agency installed expensive wellhead treatment equipment at the location, but then ran into trouble when they turned the pump back on after its long hiatus. They needed to purge the well and did so into the Santa Clara River.
This would have been fine if the water had not exceeded water quality standards for total dissolved solids, chlorides and sulfates, and if they had kept proper records. But none of these things occurred.
While these pollutants won’t cause cancer, they increase the hardness of water and violate the salt limits that all of us are paying extra in our sewer bills to remedy. Such actions by the water agency are not helping to correct this problem.
But perhaps most egregiously, none of this was communicated to the public.
Only a few members of the public were in attendance at the water agency meeting when the general manager announced casually in his March report that the water agency had been served with a violation notice and fine. It was not agendized at that time and no news reporter attended that meeting. It was not in the minutes of the March meeting. I only became aware of it after being told by a member of the public who attended that meeting. Later, while reading the May minutes, I saw that the closed session announcement indicated that the board had voted in closed session to pay the fine.
After that, it took several public records requests to find out what actually happened. To date, the water agency has not informed ratepayers about this matter and none of the news outlets have written about it. Why?
I believe the public should be informed of such problems. As a Valencia ratepayer and resident in this valley, I want to know when there is a water quality issue that affects me. I want to know how it is being corrected and why it happened. I do not expect my water agency to hide the problem from me, which is apparently what happened here.
And now I have even more questions. Was this downplayed because of Senate Bill 634, Sen. Scott Wilk’s water merger bill that was going through the Legislature last year at the time of these violations?
This is a failure of transparency by this new water agency and is exactly one of the issues that led so many people to oppose this new water monopoly. Without checks and balances the public is left in the dark. What else have we not been told?
Editor’s note: While The Signal has previously published numerous articles about the well closures and the perchlorate issue, it’s true that the closed session vote in May did not trigger a news article. We will be following up.