From the May 6, 2005 Ventura County Star


Board approves higher chloride levels upstream

Santa Clara valley farmers oppose move

By Sue Davis, sdavis@VenturaCountyStar.com
May 6, 2005

Despite concerns from farming and environmental groups, a state water board Thursday approved higher limits on chloride
levels in effluent from two water reclamation plants in the upstream Santa Clara River area.

Opponents to the new limits said they could cause crop damage downstream in the Santa Clara River Valley, especially to
strawberries and avocados, which are sensitive to the salty compounds.

"There is a clear link between high chloride levels and damage to crops," said Rex Laird, executive director of the Ventura
County Farm Bureau. "We would like to ask you to reduce, not increase, the levels."

But officials at Thursday's Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting in Simi Valley said adopting the higher
levels was a "housekeeping matter," not a policy change.

The limits were part of a change to operating permits for the treatment plants in Saugus and Valencia, which are operated by
the County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County.

Michael Lauffer, attorney for the water board, said the change was necessary to make the plants' permits consistent with federal
chloride limits that took effect April 28. The federal limits were based on recommendations from the water board, which has
been working on the chloride issue for at least 15 years.

The source of much of the chloride is believed to be home water softeners in the Santa Clarita area.

A report by the United Water Conservation District, which provides water for the Santa Clara River Valley and Oxnard Plain, says
that each water softener discharges between 6 and 20 pounds of salt into the sewer system each week.

Santa Clarita has banned the installation of softeners in new residences and convinced home improvement stores in the area
to not sell them.

"We have had an aggressive public outreach effort," said Vicki Conway, head of the monitoring section of the sanitation district.

Conway said the district has paid for more than 2,000 television spots, sent direct mailings and sponsors a Web site on
alternatives to water softeners.

If all water softeners are eliminated and the water still has chloride levels that exceed the federal limits, plant operators would
have to treat the water with reverse osmosis.

Costs of reverse osmosis systems range between $150 million and $350 million, said Jonathan Bishop, executive officer of the
water board.

Board members said they approved the higher limits with the understanding that they could lower them in the future if scientific
evidence shows chlorides are damaging crops and wildlife.

A review of studies on the subject will take place in August or September, Bishop said, and the board could consider changes
then.


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