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Water quality causes quite a buzz

Pre-softening technology elicits calls from around the country

Posted: December 14, 2008 7:32 p.m.
Updated: December 15, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Clean pre-softened water conveyed to 400 select homeowners in Copper Hill through an experimental process is drawing worldwide attention, says the man who brought the ground-breaking technology to the Santa Clarita Valley.

"We've had calls from across the country and even one from England who read your story about it and wanted to know more," Robert J. DiPrimio, president of the Valencia Water Company said Thursday.

Test subjects of the pre-softened water are enthusiastic and grateful, he said.

"I bump into people who tell me they're excited about the water quality. One guy told me he hopes we don't turn it off," he said.

If immediate response to the project is any indication, pre-softened water could be expanded to all Valencia Water Company customers, DiPrimio said, adding he's received a half dozen e-mails and a half dozen phone calls from people interested in the technology.

"The response indicates what we've known all along that hard water has been an issue for a long, long time and we've finally found the technology to deal with it," he said.

"This technology is the first of its type in the country."

The technology adds sodium hydroxide to a mixture of water and sand which draws calcium out of the water and coats each grain of sand with the extracted calcium.

The only thing produced with this technology - first introduced in the Netherlands - is soft, clean drinking water and grains of sand coated with a calcium shell.

If the experiment proves as successful eight months from now as it appears today, the Valencia Water Company might expand its service area to include all of its customers.

"We would have to build five to six treatment plants to expand it to the rest of the community, " DiPrimio said.

It would take about three years to bring pre-softened water to Valencia Water Company customers with one year drafting and amending a proposal submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission and another two years to put the infrastructure in place.

"I think this is a great thing," said Michael A. Miller, associate governmental program analyst for the state's Department of Water Resources in Sacramento.

Miller conducts tours of the department and felt compelled to copy The Signal's story on the experimental softening process and notify his peers in the water resources service.

"I forwarded the article (via e-mail) because it sounds like something of benefit to us," Miller said.

Readers have also been contacting The Signal wanting to know how they could receive pre-softened water.

"I'm really excited about this," Fern Dombay said Thursday. "But, it's unfortunate that I live in the Copper Hill Drive and Seco Canyon Road."

Dombay said Valencia Water Company should have considered a more established area of Santa Clarita Valley to conduct their year-long test.

"They could have picked an older neighborhood to test," she said. "Many of us here are on fixed incomes. It makes more sense to test it on us."

When faced with the prospect of hard water and no immediate alternative, Dombay summed it up this way: "It sucks."

On Nov. 4, Santa Clarita Valley residents voted to remove all salt-based self-regenerating water softeners installed in local homes.

The ban on all in-home salt-based water softeners in the valley goes into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

The move is good for the environment but not so good for people now struggling to find a suitable water softening alternative.

The people who pushed for Measure S on last month's ballot argued that getting rid of existing water softeners will reduce the amount of salt that ends up in the Santa Clara River. Salt is harmful to crops such as strawberries and avocados downstream.

Richard Romero, lives in the area of Copper Hill Drive and San Franciscquito Canyon Road - less than a mile from the pre-softening water setup near Rio Norte Junior High School.

"I don't want to hurt the environment. I stopped buying bottled water. I bring a reusable bag to the store," he said. "But I need an alternative. You can't just shut me off."

Romero said he's having a difficult time finding a water conditioner for his home that is not salt-based.
The Los Angeles Sanitation District offers homeowners a variety of water conditioning alternatives on its Web site



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