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State to take look at chloride

Politics: Official denounces regional water boards, calls for consistent statewide standards

Posted: March 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman said it’s time state legislators consider pulling the power plug on regional water boards that enforce different standards on things such as chloride water levels.

It’s also time to return to a statewide standard, said Huffman, D-San Rafael.

And Huffman could make it happen: He chairs the state Assembly’s Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee.

Differing water standards — when they’re set by different people on different regional boards — are “not a good thing,” Huffman said.

“There was a proposal a few years ago to do away with regional (water quality control) boards and reconstitute them and have a state board do a much more centralized job of setting these statewide standards,” Huffman told a delegation of visiting Santa Clarita Valley civic leaders Tuesday during the annual Sacramento bus tour, sponsored by KHTS AM-1220.

“That was not well-received by the water-stakeholder community,” he said Tuesday.

Agricultural firms, including those who farm salt-sensitive crops, such as strawberries and avocados, are among the stakeholders in the water community mentioned by Huffman.

“We’re probably going to have to have more of a statewide standard at the state board instead of having the regional boards with their power of autonomy,” Huffman said.

Huffman made the statement in response to a question put to him by a visiting member of the Castaic Lake Water Agency about chloride levels that Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers are expected to meet despite a multimillion-dollar cost.

Water agency board Vice President Bill Cooper, who spent most of his career at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, asked Huffman why Santa Clarita Valley is expected to honor chloride standards that differ from other standards across the state.

“We have an issue in our valley with chlorides,” Cooper said. “The regional water quality control board has set a standard for discharge downstream. That standard doesn’t match up with the same kinds of standards throughout the state.

“Other areas have chloride discharges (with) a different standard going into the same kind of agricultural land,” he said. “So why do we have different standards and how do we correct that so that it’s consistent?”

Huffman told Cooper he hears the same complaint about “all over the map” standards from others.

“Well, you’re not alone,” Huffman told Cooper.

“I hear this from lots of folks,” he told the group. “For example, if you want to try to recycle water and use it in a way where it might get into an aquifer, there are standards all over the map.

“In places like Orange County, you can actually take recycled water, put it right into the drinking water supply and turn on the tap,” Huffman said. “Their standards are very high, and it’s worked very well for them. But they have what they call potable reuse.

“In other places,” he added. “You can’t even irrigate an (airplane) field with recycled water because they are so deathly afraid it’s going to get into the groundwater and somehow intermingle with the drinking water supply.

“It’s totally different standards simply by virtue of the two different regional boards, different people,” he said. “I’m always interested in trying to bring more cohesion to these rules we have on different basins.”

Cooper said Thursday that Huffman’s statement was “very significant.”


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