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Sewage rate hikes loom as chloride-removal plan moves ahead

Posted: January 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.

After more than a decade wrangling with state water regulators and downstream farmers over the levels of chloride in the Santa Clara River, Santa Clarita Valley residents will be footing the bill to inject the salty substance under ground.

Under an agreement reached in October, SCV residents whose toilets flush into the local sewage system will be paying for a deep-well injection method of disposing of chloride removed from valley wastewater.

Five or six of the 2-mile-deep wells will need to be constructed, and the cost of each will be $2 million to $3 million, experts estimate. Added to that will be the cost of removing chloride from wastewater and shipping it to the site of the wells, as well as the cost of operating the wells.

Early estimates from the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District indicate the cost of deep-well injection per single-family home will add about $140 more a year to sewage rates; per condominium it is expected to be about $105 more yearly.

Business owners would be harder hit, facing as much as $4,050 more a year for a shopping center and $3,723 more a year for a stand-alone restaurant.

The site where the wells would be located is expected to be the outer edge of the Tournament Players Club of Valencia on the west side of The Old Road.

Ray Tremblay, who heads the Facilities Planning Department for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, said he’s already working with the owners of the property.

“We would build one well first as what we call a test well,” he told The Signal. “We have good information that the sub-surface is suitable.”

Tremblay and his team selected the site near the Tournament Players Club after crossing other locations in the Santa Clarita Valley off the list, he said. The goal was to avoid drilling where there’s a fault line or underground oil or water.

If results of the test well come back positive, then a handful of other wells will be drilled in the same area, he said.
The site is on property owned by Newhall Land Development Inc.

“We met with Newhall Land, and they are amenable to further discussion,” Tremblay said.

The only notable inhabitant on the site is a cluster of oak trees deemed an oak tree preservation area on a conservation easement owned and managed by an environmental group.

The agreement to go with the deep-well injection method of chloride removal halted 10 years of negotiation and one round of fines on the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District for failing to comply with state-ordered chloride levels in wastewater discharge into the Santa Clara River.

Farmers downstream from the SCV complained that chloride in the river — which is considerably below levels deemed safe for human consumption — was damaging avocado crops.

Calling the fee hike to remove chloride a “salt tax,” opponents of the chloride-removal mandate challenged the science behind the order, noting the chloride levels demanded in the Santa Clara River are lower than those allowed in wastewater just about everywhere else in California.


Chloride costs

Some of the costs of the past year’s debate over chloride removal from the Santa Clara River:

— Hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Kennedy/Jenks Consultants by the Castaic Lake Water Agency, including a supplemental amount of $150,000 approved in June while public comment was being heard by sanitation officials.

— More than $885,000 paid by the Sanitation District to the Venice-based public relations firm Community Conservation Solutions to present the public with four alternatives for reducing chloride discharge.

— Tens of thousands of dollars paid by the district to prepare its Final Chloride Compliance Facilities Plan and Environmental Impact Report presented in April.
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