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Wilk bill calls for more science behind pollution restrictions

Posted: April 24, 2014 5:44 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2014 5:44 p.m.

Santa Clarita City Council members voted this week to support a bill from Santa Clarita Valley Assemblyman Scott Wilk that would inject an additional level of scientific review into the laws that govern pollution limitations in discharged water.

Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, introduced Assembly Bill 1707, requiring a scientific peer review of the level of Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, established for water discharged in specific areas.

Currently, state and federal environmental agencies are required to conduct external scientific peer reviews of the scientific basis for any proposed rules.

Wilk’s proposed law would extend that requirement to the establishment of TMDLs.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday night to endorse the bill and send letters to legislators urging them to pass it.

Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District ratepayers have been required to build and maintain a $130 million system to eliminate chloride in water discharged into the Santa Claria River to reduce the chloride TMDL contamination to no more than 100 milligrams per liter, one of the lowest rates in the state.

The demand was made by downstream farmers who say the chloride damages their avocado crops, and it was enforced by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which regulates water quality rules in the Los Angeles area.

However, the low TMDLs required of Santa Clarita Valley wastewater were challenged by some, who dubbed the studies upon which the TMDLs were based “junk science.”

“In our particular case I don’t think there’s any scientific evidence detailing what we’re being required to do,” Wilk said in an interview this week.

The bill, if passed, would not apply to the current chloride restrictions faced by Santa Clarita Valley residents.
But it would, if passed, apply to future pollution restrictions proposed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Michael Murphy, intergovernmental relations officer for the city of Santa Clarita.

“It forces the regional board to really have to look at the science behind the issue before they impose a TMDL,” Murphy said.

Municipalities can be fined if they do not meet TMDL levels imposed by regional water quality control districts, and the fines are passed on to ratepayers.

“Let’s be honest; we’re seeing more regulations, not less,” Wilk said. “So I’m assuming we’re going to see more down the pipe. I’m just trying to protect ratepayers.”

As of Thursday, Wilk’s bill was scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials on Tuesday.



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