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The great SCV salt scam

Posted: October 20, 2013 1:59 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2013 1:55 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following column represents City Councilman Boydston’s stance on the chloride issue. He does not speak for the entire City Council.

If nothing is done to stop it, homeowners in the SCV will see their tax bills increase by hundreds, to possibly more than a thousand, dollars each year.

Businesses will be hit even harder. Free-standing restaurants the size of our Buca di Beppo will pay an additional $20,200 a year. Opening a new restaurant that size would cost an additional $145,500 for a sewer connection.

Our elected officials on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board have not taken the actions needed to stop this “salt tax.”

You may remember these same politicians a few years ago telling us that we had to take out our salt-based water softeners so we would not have to pay these new taxes. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Please join me at City Hall Monday at 6:30 p.m. to tell the Sanitation District board that it is time to fight back. Tell them: 1) Do real scientific studies; 2) Take legal action; 3) Stop the water grab known as “Option 4.”

There is salt in our water naturally; during some years, salt levels have been measured at hundreds of milligrams per liter.  The demand that our sewer water have salt removed to a level of 100 mg/liter — before we put it into the riverbed — is the result of the Regional Water Quality Control Board being lobbied by the farmers downstream.

Since the 1930s the farmers on the Oxnard Plain have over pumped their aquifer, leaving seawater to fill the void.
At 34,000 milligrams per liter of salt, seawater kills crops. To fix this problem, those farmers need more of our low-salt water.

They claim that their crops are being damaged by current salt levels, but the dirty little secret is that when our water blends with the Piru watershed about eight miles downstream, the chloride levels drop way below 100 mg/liter, so none of the farmers from that point to the ocean are even affected at the bogus 100 mg/liter level.

Only one farmer claimed that there was damage done by our water to his avocado trees. Not the fruit, just the leaves, which sometimes turn brown at their tips. But leaf tip burn can be caused by many things, including fertilizer or heat.

A study of existing literature was then done to see if other studies showed how much salt in irrigation water would injure avocados.

The six scientists who worked on the survey (three of whom had gross conflicts of interest, since they made their living working for the agricultural interests downstream) gave a “safe” range of 100 mg/liter to 270 mg/liter for agricultural irrigation water.

They also recommended actual scientific studies be done to determine a more accurate number.

The Sanitation District board refused to do more studies because they said they would take too long (If they had started eight years ago, the studies would be finished by now.) and cost too much money (estimated to be $1 million to $2 million.)

Instead of spending money on a scientific study, they spent almost $1 million on a PR campaign to sell us on this boondoggle.

The Sanitation District staff is recommending the board approve Option 4, which will use our taxes to put giant pumps in the Piru Basin and pump up to 11 billion gallons of water each year to be delivered six miles downstream to the farmers.

To replace that water, we will pay to put giant pumps in our own Saugus Aquifer and pump our water downstream. Also to replace that water, we will buy water from the Castaic Lake Water Agency (no surprise that they are endorsing Option 4; it is good for their business).

Once we begin pumping, the federal government is likely to never allow us to stop because we will have helped create a habitat for the endangered steelhead trout species downstream.

Legal action should always be a last resort, but it is called for here because the Regional Water Quality Control Board is making decisions not based on science.

Of the nine regional boards in California, four have no Agricultural Chloride Threshold, and of the five that do, the lowest outside the SCV is San Diego with 140 mg/liter.

In addition, just over the hill in the Simi Valley area of the Calleguas watershed, they have a 150 mg/liter requirement — and they are growing healthy avocados there.

On Oct. 21, tell the Sanitation District board to stand up for their constituents or step down. They were elected to take care of us, not the farmers.

Join the fight. Go to

TimBen Boydston is a Santa Clarita City Councilman.



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