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Salty talks tabled for time being

Officials postpone discussion of proposed rate hikes until all reports on chloride levels are in

Posted: March 20, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 20, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Talks of raising sewer rates to build two salt-ridding reverse-osmosis plants won’t resume until all chloride reports are in, officials said Friday.

Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurene Weste, speaking as a member of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board, said that plans to revisit the proposed rate hikes are not likely to happen before May.

Talks last year on the controversial subject were postponed until spring following a boisterous meeting at Santa Clarita City Hall in July when residents complained about a four-year plan to raise sewer rates.

“We don’t have a date for the talks,” Weste said. “We have to wait until all the reports are in.”

One of those reports is a detailed analysis of the chloride content in water delivered to the Santa Clarita Valley from Northern California.

Last month, the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which buys Northern California water via the State Water Project, called on water specialists Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to do that report.

Removing chloride — a naturally occurring salt — from Santa Clarita Valley’s discharged water became a hotly debated topic last summer, when downstream Ventura County farmers said it was damaging to salt-sensitive crops, such as strawberries and avocados.

The chloride would be removed with two proposed reverse-osmosis plants. Building the plants would cost about $500 million, and the bill would have to be paid by local water users.

“Nothing is going to happen on chloride until all facts are in,” Weste said. “It would be foolish to proceed without all the information. In the meantime, we are working diligently, using all our resources to research this issue.”

Water experts have had their eye on salt in discharged water for decades.

In 1975, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board set local chloride levels at between 80 and 90 milligrams of chloride per liter of water. That’s roughly the chloride concentration of Northern California water and local groundwater.

In 2008, the chloride limit was reset to 130 milligrams per liter to accommodate for drought conditions — with an understanding that 117 milligrams per liter would be the target limit later.

The latest figures on chloride found in the Santa Clara River show water at the Ventura County line to be within state set limits.

Dave Snyder, who calculates the content for the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District of Los Angeles County, reported Friday that the chloride content of water at the Ventura County Line is 115 milligrams per liter.

Water sampled at both Sanitation District treatment plants, and then averaged, show chloride concentrations of 128 milligrams per liter in November, 123 milligrams per liter in December and 128 milligrams per liter in January.

A year after more than 7,000 salt-based water softeners were removed from local homes, chloride levels dropped by 50 to 60 milligrams, according to Sanitation District officials.


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