After reading Paul Rodriguez’s letter to the editor in last week’s edition, I felt compelled to provide Chino residents the facts that belie Mr. Rodriguez’s opinion piece.

Fact 1: While the most prevalent contaminant in the area’s groundwater is, indeed, nitrate, the high levels in the Chino Groundwater Basin come from the fertilizer used in this and other areas with a history of dairy or farming. 

Not, as he claims, the “thousands” of septic tanks that are “slowly leaching nitrates into the groundwater.” 

As someone actively engaged in protecting the Chino Groundwater Basin for decades and keenly aware of Chino’s dairy and agricultural roots, I consider the claim that existing septic systems are “the newest threats to Chino Basin” inaccurate and alarmist. 

All area groundwater is treated, and contaminants, including nitrates, are removed to ensure the groundwater is suitable for drinking purposes. 

All drinking water produced and distributed by the city meets water quality requirements and complies with drinking water laws.

Fact 2: The Monte Vista Water District (MVWD) has stated that it would not require the properties with existing septic systems to connect to sewer service. 

It is unclear, then, how activation of MVWD’s latent sewer service powers would alleviate the “crisis” of leaching septic tanks. Nothing being proposed by MVWD and advocated by Mr. Rodriguez eliminates the 1,500 septic systems in existence. 

In most cases, the cost of connecting to the sewer system is the major obstacle for property owners, yet little detail has been provided as to how “MVWD will eventually provide sewer connections to residents and businesses.” 

If MVWD will not require existing septic systems to connect to sewer, then will it subsidize the cost to create an incentive for property owners to do so voluntarily? If so, how will MVWD pay for connections for properties with existing septic systems without passing along the cost to other customers?

What is clear is that new developments would be able to circumvent city land use requirements by obtaining new sewer connections through MVWD. 

This is really about allowing new development to proceed in county unincorporated areas unfettered by land use regulations. 

Septic systems are a problem, but MVWD’s push to provide sewer service is, in fact, about development projects circumventing Chino’s local zoning laws, resulting in higher density developments in areas zoned for low density (i.e., larger residential lots). 

While we support the development of sewer infrastructure, it cannot be at the expense of our city planning documents.

Fact 3: Contrary to the assertion that Chino has no plan “to provide a sewer system for the capture and treatment of effluent to replace septic tanks as they age out,” Chino is taking proactive, thoughtful action to address sewer service needs in its unincorporated areas.

The city knows it is important to develop sewer infrastructure in unincorporated Chino. 

Two years ago, Chino conducted a study on the requirements for such a project and has initiated discussions with San Bernardino County on implementation options. 

As demonstrated by our record of annexations and will-serve letters, Chino is addressing the issue. In fact, we are currently working with a property owner to expand backbone sewer infrastructure in the vicinity of Chino Avenue and Serenity Trail.

Chino has been working collaboratively with governmental agencies, including the City of Montclair and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, to ensure proper planning, avoid duplication of services, and provide cost-effective service for local ratepayers and taxpayers.

Fact 4: Property owners in county areas of Chino can already submit sewer connection applications to the city.

Per policy that Mr. Rodriguez voted on while on City Council, Chino allows existing property owners to connect to city sewer where feasible, without going through the process of annexing to the city. However, connections must be approved by the city, county, and the Local Agency Formation Commission. 

To date, Chino has issued over 100 sewer services agreements, with 16 of these approved since January of last year.

Mr. Rodriguez is right, however, that protecting water supplies is more urgent than ever.

By focusing on providing reliable, high-quality water in its service area, as it has done successfully for 95 years, MVWD will continue to be a key partner with Chino in protecting our groundwater.

Eunice Ulloa

Mayor of Chino

 

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