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Hard line on water softeners

Posted: September 16, 2013 10:32 a.m.
Updated: September 16, 2013 10:32 a.m.

SANTA CLARITA - Coming off a summer of public comment about plans to reduce chloride in the Santa Clara River, local sanitation district officials say they have one concrete action they can take that will reduce the river’s saltiness: crack down on scofflaws who are still harboring water softeners.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District decided last month to go after homeowners who persist in violating an ordinance adopted by district ratepayers in 2008 that bans salt-discharging water softeners.

Specifically, the ordinance required the removal and disposal of all salt-generating automatic water softeners in homes connected to the valley’s sewer system.

Inspections for the contraband softeners were due to begin Sept. 21, said district spokesman Basil Hewitt. However, those inspections have been put off until the new year.

“We’ve had a change in plans,” Hewitt said. “We’ll not start targeted home inspections for illegal automatic water softeners until 2014.”

Removing salt-generating water softeners remains the most effective way of immediately reducing the overall amount of chloride discharged into the Santa Clara River, officials say.

More than 500 softeners were removed last year when the district mailed letters to 2,500 homeowners suspected of harboring the illegal devices.

However, just as many illegal softeners — and possibly double that number — are still believed to be in use locally.

At a public hearing held by sanitation officials this summer, sanitation district Senior Engineer Francisco Guerrerro said 500 to 1,000 residents in the Santa Clarita Valley are believed to be using banned water softeners, and their softeners are believed to be contributing a combined five milligrams to the measured level of the chloride ion in the Santa Clara River.

Some downstream farmers have demanded a reduced level of chloride, and under state water quality laws their demands must be met. Since the sanitation district failed to meet a previous deadline for chloride reduction, its current target for chloride in the river is no more than 100 milligrams per liter of river water.

Chloride levels tend to be higher than that during dry months and particularly after dry winters, which the most recent has been.

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