Santa Clarita Valley Sewer Officials OK Rate Hike
Santa Clarita Valley sewer officials approved a rate hike for local ratepayers Monday as what officials called the most “cost-effective solution” to solve a state-mandated chloride limit.
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The state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board set a limit for the amount of chloride, or salt, that can be in the water sent from local treatment plants to downstream users in Ventura County.
“Theres nothing here that I’m comfortable with, but I will say this -- there is no choice,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste, who holds one of three spots on the county board that approved the rate hike, at Monday's hearing. “There is no choice but to find a way to get the lowest cost to the ratepayer.”
This claim was disputed by residents who spoke at several hearings about the rate hike, who criticized the plan and the process.
City Councilman TimBen Boydston called the situation “a failure of leadership”; Sam Unger, the executive director for the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, said more fines would be likely if the Sanitation District failed to address the chloride mandate.
Those fines would be paid by Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers, officials said.
The chloride limit was set at 100 milligrams per liter, which many claimed was capricious and arbitrary; however, state officials claimed science was on their side.
“In this district, the current service charge rate per single-family home is $20.58 per month and $247 per year,” according to Sanitation District officials.
The proposed rates for the next six years are $22.25 per month, or $267 per year in 2014-15; $23.92 per month ($287 per year) the following year; $25.58 per month ($307 per year) the year after that; $27.33 per month ($328 per year) in 2017-18; $29.08 per month ($349 per year) in 2018-19; and $30.83 per month ($370 per year) in 2019-20.
Santa Clarita Valley sewage officials formally introduced a rate hike last Monday in order to pay for a state-mandated chloride-compliance plan expected to total about $205 million, Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District officials said.
Many accused the two Santa Clarita City Council members on the Sanitation District board, Weste and Bob Kellar, of not fighting hard enough for a change in the state’s chloride limit.
The state’s Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board is a state-appointed agency that oversees the permitting of the Santa Clarita Valley’s water-treatment plants.
While the need and science behind the move was scrutinized for more than two hours, Sanitation District officials said ultimately, if the district doesn’t comply, fines will be steep and inevitable for ratepayers.
Had the Sanitation District’s governing board -- represented by Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste and City Councilman Bob Kellar -- not approved the rate increase, then ratepayers would have faced more than $52 million in fines from the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board, officials said. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich did not attend the meeting.
“The discharge level has been set at 100 milligrams per liter,” said Phil Friess, justifying the district’s need to raise rates and explaining a relationship with the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board that’s vacillated between cooperation and contention over the last 10 years.
Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston called the situation Santa Clarita Valley ratepayers were in as the result of a “failure of leadership” on behalf of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District’s governing board.
Boydston and several other attacked the science used to justify the state’s limit for salt in the water sent downstream to Ventura County farmers. calling it junk science and asking why a field study wasn’t commissioned earlier to prove the SCV effluence wasn’t damaging crops.
“They’ve never been able to show us where there are any damaged crops from chloride,” Boydston said.
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