Court tosses lawsuit, green-lights chloride reduction

FILE PHOTO. Discharged water, or effluent, will meet contamination levels met by the SCV Sanitation District/ Jim Holt The Signal
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Local sanitation officials were happy to report Monday news of a recent court decision that enables them to proceed with their four-year plan to reduce the amount of chloride ending up in the Santa Clara River.

On Monday morning, members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District met for a regular meeting at Santa Clarita City Hall and, after approving a half-dozen standard recommendations, they went into closed session for a talk about lawsuits with their lawyers.

They emerged from the closed-door session with news about a lawsuit heard in court two weeks ago challenging the veracity of their plan to reduce chloride contamination of the Santa Clara River over the next four years.

Attorney David Waite, special counsel for the district, addressed fewer than half a dozen attendees of Monday’s meeting:

“We are pleased to report to the board that on Oct. 11, 2019, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant issued a 39-page decision denying the petition for writ of mandate, and each of the claims asserted therein.”

“We anticipate that a judgment will be entered by the court in approximately two to four weeks,” Waite said.

The lawsuit is the latest of three civil suits filed against the district by a local citizen’s group called Affordable Clean Water Alliance.

Robert Silverstien, the environmental attorney hired by ACWA, issued a written response to the district’s Monday announcement.

He wrote: “Having won the first two lawsuits, ACWA is surprised by the current ruling.”

“However, ACWA is reviewing its options, including appealing,” he said. “The public deserves better than the Sanitation District’s misappropriation of recycled water and hundreds of millions of dollars of ratepayer money. Other legal actions to protect the citizens of the Santa Clarita Valley are in progress.”  

In the meantime, district officials are taking the Oct. 11 court decision and running with it.

“This ruling allows the district to proceed with implementation of the chloride compliance project without further legal delay,” district spokesman Bryan Langpap said Monday.

In October 2014, district officials went before state water regulators with a four-year plan to significantly reduce the amount of salty chloride discharged as treated water into the Santa Clara River watershed.

The Sanitation District, a Los Angeles County entity with two local representatives that is responsible for regulating local effluence, was mandated to reduce the amount of chloride, or salt, that discharges from SCV wastewater treatment plants into the Santa Clara River, largely due to concerns by downstream farmers that chloride was damaging salt-sensitive crops such as strawberries and avocados.

Lawsuits filed by ACWA, however, put the brakes on that plan, delayed it by two years and cost ratepayers an additional $5 million, according to Grace Robinson Hyde, the former chief engineer and general manager of the SCV Sanitation District.

In May, two months after the two-year delay was announced, state water regulators gave district officials three more years to carry out their plan to reduce the amount of chloride that ends up in the Santa Clara River.

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On Twitter: @jamesarthurholt

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