County addresses ‘confusing’ Public Health letter

L.A. County officials are sending out new notices to clarify the situation for homeowners, after thousands of Santa Clarita Valley residents received a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health letter about a new septic-tank fee — regardless of whether the fee impacted them. 

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion by 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger to have DPH issue subsequent notifications to residents to whom the changes actually apply, as well as to those whom should not have received the initial letter

The letter, dated June 20, was intended for residents who have a septic system, informing them about a fee increase of $5 per year for conventional septic tanks, and $43 annually for unconventional systems, as part of the county’s move to comply with recently adopted changes to State Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Policy, according to the motion.

About 49,000 residents who received the notification were asked to “please provide proof of a sewer connection, such as a sewer bill or an approved building permit to have your property removed” from DPH’s database.

There are currently more than 47,000 septic systems and an additional 900 non-conventional onsite wastewater treatment systems in the county, a majority of which are in the 5th district. 

Across the SCV, letters were sent to 7,431 properties in Canyon Country, Saugus, Valencia Castaic Stevenson Ranch, Val Verde and Newhall Ranch, as well as to more than 2,000 residences within the city of Santa Clarita, according to Gina Ender with Barger’s office. 

“Unfortunately, there were errors in the list and as a result a significant number of people that do not have a septic system, and to whom these changes do not apply, received the letter,” read the motion, adding that the issue “has caused widespread concern and confusion” among those who should not have received the notice. 

“The first letter left constituents in a panic, so I think it’s good that they clarify this,” said Eric Larson, a representative for Castaic’s 3rd region on the Castaic Town Council and a resident who would not be affected by the changes. “I don’t think it’s right for the county to charge a citizen for something that they already installed and paid taxes. I personally believe that they should overturn this whole thing and not charge private citizens unless they can justify it.” 

The DPH must now issue a notification within 30 days to residents that received the June 20 letter indicating whether they are subject to the ordinance requirements related to septic systems, as stated in the motion. 

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