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Whiplash from chloride decision

Posted: November 11, 2013 6:53 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2013 6:53 p.m.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District — representing the sewer-using residents of this valley — has decided which option it will pursue to clean up chloride from the Santa Clara River so that water will be cleaner going downstream to our neighboring farmers in Ventura County.

If the district didn’t come up with a plan, it likely would have been slapped with a fine that everyone who flushes toilets or runs baths in this valley would have to pay.

The district voted Oct. 28 to go with Option 2 of four chloride-reducing choices it offered in April. That involves removing chloride and burying it deep under ground in an area or areas away from the valley’s two underground water reservoirs. It promises heated "NIMBY" battles in the search for those areas.

But from the time it released the list of four options in April, the district clearly favored Option 4, a two-phased plan aimed at avoiding huge infrastructure expenses to remove salty chloride while shipping local groundwater downstream in a bid to dilute the offending substance.

During a Signal Editorial Board shortly before publicly championing Option 4 on Oct. 21, Sanitation District officials said Option 2 was the fallback plan but enumerated many reasons why it was inferior to Option 4.

The district has spent some $800,000 manipulating public opinion on the chloride issue, took a strong stand for Option 4, and — The Signal learned in subsequent reporting — had the Castaic Lake Water Agency working behind the scenes spending more money to promote Option 4 to downstream farmers.

So imagine our surprise when the tune changed completely between Oct. 21 and Oct. 28, when the board ditched Option 4 and suddenly held up Option 2 as the clearly better plan. Community representative after community representative took the podium at that final Oct. 28 meeting to denigrate Option 4 and praise Option 2.

The word "whiplash" comes to mind.

In our reporting, we found that the Sanitation District changed its decision after meeting with Ventura County farmers and other stakeholders in that county. The Ventura County farmers didn’t like Option 4 — pure and simple.

It seems the farmers and related interests in our neighboring county call the shots concerning our water disposal here in the SCV.

The parade of praise for the suddenly favored plan over the one previously held up as the absolute best is dismaying for ratepayers who would like to think there’s a little thought, a little science, a little stability being brought to bear in making such a costly and lofty policy decision — not just the strong arm of Ventura County farming interests.

As ratepayers who will have to pay more because of this chloride cleanup effort, we feel broadsided by the Sanitation District’s abrupt change in decision after spending a lot of money going in a different direction.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District needs to be more transparent about the driving force behind its actions.


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