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VEOLIA, Novato Sanitary 'End-Run' Around Voters Described as 'illegal'
May 11, 2010

NOVATO - The embattled Novato Sanitary District - already faced with a voter-inspired referendum to overturn its decision to hire a foreign company to run its wastewater operations - has been notified that a recent decision to make an "end-run" around the voters is patently "illegal."

Click here for the rest of the story



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Contact: Dennis Welsh 415-497-1577
Current and former elected officials join fight to stop SF Bay polluter from taking reins of sanitary district plant, urge Novato voters to reject Measure F June 8

NOVATO – Former and current Novato and Marin County elected officials are endorsing a “No” vote on Measure F on the Novato ballot June 8, expressing major concerns about turning over a new water treatment plant to a private company with a poor environmental record, and a history of raising rates for consumers.

In fact, one Bay Area mayor whose city is stuck in a contract with Veolia Water – which wants to run Novato Sanitary District plant – is warning Novato voters to not privatize their current public-owned facilities.

"There are three wastewater treatment plants in Richmond and those ratepayers served by the plant operated by Veolia are charged three to four times as much.  I caution other cities of going down this same path,” Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin said, endorsing a “No” vote on Measure F. Veolia has an 8 percent rate increase on the table this year in Richmond.

Others opposed to Measure F include former Novato mayor Jim Leland, Novato Planning Commissioner Peter Tiernan, Fairfax vice-mayor Lawrence Bragman, San Rafael city councilperson Greg Brockbank and Fairfax city councilperson Pam Hartwell-Herrero.

“Clean water and sanitation are basic human rights that should not be corporatized...Novato is ground zero for the anti- privatization movement in Marin County,” said Bragman, a former Novato businessperson and resident.

The Sierra Club of  California has endorsed a “NO” vote on Measure F, which was placed on the ballot by outraged citizens – 4,000 voters, twice the number needed,  signed a referendum to put the decision on the ballot after only two weeks of signature-gathering.

Veolia is expected to spend freely in the election to claim a $15.6 million contract. It spent $38,000 last November to try to re-elect the same board that awarded it a contract.

Environmentalists note that Veolia has a terrible record. The Veolia-operated plant in Richmond has the 4th worst record for sewage spills in California, according to the State Water Board. Burlingame was sued after a Veolia-operated plant reportedly dumped more than 10 million gallons of wastewater and untreated sewage into San Francisco Bay. –

Novato Flow.Org Press Release, Wednesday, April 28, 2010

KPFA interview about disenfranchised voters in Novato Sanitary District

The section starts at 49:57 of the news.

Click here to hear the interview

Upfront: Witness for the prosecution?
Newest board member has Novato Sanitary District in another fine mess...
by Peter Seidman, Pacific Sun


It didn't take long. Just days after the lone opposition candidate to win a spot on the Novato Sanitary District took his seat, the first confrontation erupted in a district that has been wracked with dissension. 

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Novato Water Treatment Fight a Sign of the Times
December 4, 2009, 12:36 am

Novato is a key local battleground in a regional war over how to manage its sewage treatment facilities to maximize economic and environmental benefits. No sooner had it signed a contract this fall with Veolia Water North America, a subsidiary of a French-based international firm, than a local resident spearheaded an effort to nullify it.

It is a timely subject of debate in the Bay Area, where communities have been wrestling with the broader question of whether private-public partnerships in municipal services make financial and environmental sense during tough economic times.

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Novato Sanitary referendum heads to ballot June 8, 2010
Jim Welte
Posted: 11/24/2009

Nearly one year after the Novato Sanitary District board voted to privatize a
new $90 million wastewater treatment plant, its customers will get a chance to
affirm or reject that decision.

The board voted unanimously Monday to put the matter on the ballot for the June
8, 2010, primary election, setting the stage for an encore of what has already
been a turbulent battle over the issue.

"We look forward to the June 2010 election when all the voters in the district
will hopefully be allowed to vote," said Phil Tucker, project director for
Martinez-based California Healthy Communities Network, which spearheaded the
referendum along with a trio of opposition candidates in the Nov. 3 board election.

The group collected more than the necessary 2,178 signatures needed to get the
issue on the ballot, and Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold
certified the petition drive's success late last month. June 8 is the next
regular election scheduled in California. It could cost the district up to about
$77,000. Getting it on the ballot sooner could have cost the district as much as

Click here for the rest of the story

Bay Area Water Plan Referendum Election Set for June Next Year

November 25, 2009 - Novato voters to decide in June if embattled Bay Area water district - facing federal probe - can outsource local jobs and control to French-owned firm

NOVATO - An embattled Bay Area sanitation district - under investigation by the
EPA for allegedly dumping millions of gallons of untreated waste into the Bay -
decided Monday night it would reluctantly place a citizen-initiated referendum
on the ballot June 8 that could reverse the district's plan to outsource much of
its operation and control to a French-owed corporation.

Click here for the rest of the story

Novato Sanitary referendum gets green light
Jim Welte, Marin IJ
Posted: 10/30/2009 12:04:32 AM PDT

Privatization of the Novato Sanitary District's $90 million sewage treatment plant will go to voters next year. The Marin County registrar of voters said Thursday that critics of the privatization plan garnered enough signatures of registered voters to put the issue on a 2010 ballot. The announcement came just five days before Tuesday's hotly contested election that will determine the majority of the five-member district board, which approved the privatization deal earlier this year.

Registrar Elaine Ginnold said organizers of the referendum obtained the necessary 2,178 signatures, or 10 percent of the votes cast in the district in the November 2006 gubernatorial election. The campaign, which was spearheaded by an opposition slate of three candidates for the board and the California Healthy Communities Network in Martinez, had turned in more than 4,000 petition signatures.

Click here for the rest of the story

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (See also KPFA Radio News Clip at bottom or release)
Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Contact: Cres Vellucci, Cal-HCN media relations, 916/996 9170

Ballot measure to prevent Bay Area water agency from outsourcing jobs to foreign company qualifies for vote; referendum will save millions for ratepayers

NOVATO – Environmental and taxpayer groups Thursday confirmed that a ballot measure designed to reverse a highly controversial decision by a Bay Area water agency to turn over control and operations to a foreign company has qualified for election in Marin County.

Phil Tucker, project director for California Healthy Communities Network/Tides, said the citizen referendum to block a multi-million contract between Novato Sanitary District and Veolia Water was surprisingly easy.

"We gathered the signatures in about two weeks, and we collected nearly double the number needed. We are very happy this has succeeded," said Tucker. Nearly 4,100 signatures were submitted to the Marin County Election Dept., and only 2,178 were needed.

Tucker said the NSD Board erred in calculating supposed savings, and that hidden deals would cost ratepayers millions of dollars more under privatization. "We have uncovered millions of dollars in unreported costs that will be borne by the ratepayers," he said Tucker.

In fact, Petaluma – with an operation similar to Novato's – recently severed a deal with Veolia Water when it was found going back to a public operation was less expensive to taxpayers. Fairfield-Suisun has also returned to public operations.

Tucker said the board – under investigation by the EPA after an FBI raid looking into illegal dumping into the Bay of millions of gallons of sewage – is being unduly influenced by Veolia, which has kicked in tens of thousands of dollars to influence the board's re-election Nov. 3.

Tucker urged NSD to rescind the current contract with Veolia Water to stop an election, and save ratepayers even more money. Or NSD could fight the election, and the right of ratepayers to vote, using, ironically, the ratepayer own monies to disenfranchise them," he explained;

"We would prefer the NSD board be reasonable, realize that there an overwhelming ratepayer concern about this bad contract and vote to end their relationship with Veolia Water," said Tucker.

Click here for KPFA radio news clip
(50:13 starts, through 53.34)

Novato Sanitary District board race heats up
By Jim Welte
Posted: 10/15/2009 06:34:26 PM PDT

The already testy Novato Sanitary District board race got even feistier this week, as candidates engaged in heated exchanges at two board meetings and a coalition submitted petitions Thursday to put the district's privatization plans up for a public vote.

"We all just need to cool off a bit," said board member Bill Long on Tuesday, a day after multiple shouting matches broke out at the board's Monday meeting and a day before Long himself responded angrily to one of the opposition group's leaders.

Click here for the rest of the story

Bay Taxpayer Revolt; FBI Raid Leads to Ballot Measure in Novato
October 15, 2009

Thousands of petition signatures will be submitted here by voters Thursday to qualify a ballot measure to stop a Bay Area wastewater agency - already under federal investigation - which plans to outsource jobs and local control to a French company with a poor environmental record.

Click here for the rest of the story

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Contact: Cres Vellucci 916/996 9170

‘Hidden costs,' outsourcing jobs and local control cause Bay Area ratepayers to announce a ballot measure; EPA continues probe after FBI raid

SAN RAFAEL – More than 4,000 petition signatures were submitted here by voters Thursday in an effort to qualify a ballot measure to stop a Bay Area wastewater agency – already under federal investigation after a major spill into the Bay – from near-secret plans to outsource jobs and local control to a French company with a poor environmental record.

At a news conference Thursday at the Marin County Civic Center, Novato ratepayers and environmental and tax organizations carried in the signatures - each "book" had more than 100 pages of documents and signatures - to election officials.

The coalition turned in 4,084. The county requires 2,178 to qualify for an election.

"Our staff and consultants have...uncovered millions of dollars in unreported costs that will be borne by the ratepayers. The race to off load operational responsibility was rushed through that has not been transparent," said Phil Tucker of the California Healthy Communities Network/Tide Center.

Ratepayers are upset about recent increases in rates, the loss of local control over their own sanitary district and millions of dollars in hidden costs in the contract to outsource operations.

The Board – already facing criminal investigation by the EPA after a daytime raid by the FBI earlier this year over alleged illegal discharges into the Bay – is being challenged for re-election Nov. 3 in what has become one of the hottest election races in the Bay Area.

The board's unpopular action to give up local control comes after a probe by the FBI and EPA, accusations that NSD dumped millions of gallons of raw sewage in the bay, $500,000 missing from the NSD bank account and the death of a contract worker.

OCTOBER 15, 2009

On behalf of California Healthy Communities Network, a project of non-profit Tides Center, I am pleased to join our Novato community citizens committee in presenting 4,084 signatures of voters of the Novato Sanitary District to the Marin County Registrar of Voters today.

Over 25 community activists have joined in the signature gathering effort to qualify a referendum of Novato Sanitary District’s September 21, 2009, action approving a contract for services outsourcing the operation, maintenance and management for the new $90 million Waste Processing Plant to Veolia Water North America, a subsidiary of French-owned Veolia Environmental.

After more than 80 years of providing local waste water treatment services, Novato Sanitary District turned over local control of essential waste water treatment to a third party operator of questionable reputation. This race to off load this operational responsibility was rushed through an approval process that has not been transparent and has questionable and contested cost savings produced by NSD consultants.

Responding to this action, over 4,000 voters and ratepayers of Novato Sanitary District are seeking a referendum ballot measure that would allow a vote to determine whether or not this contract outsourcing of essential water treatment services will stand.

Our staff and consultants have reviewed the contract Exhibit attached to the referendum petition and have uncovered millions of dollars in unreported costs that will be borne by the ratepayers of NSD. The exaggerated savings being publicized by the NSD Board and administrative staff do not take into consideration hidden costs and subsidies to Veolia that undermine the claimed savings.

By letting the voters and ratepayers of NSD decide this measure through the democratic, public process of a referendum election, the ambiguities of this 111-page contract will see sunlight and the citizens and voters of Novato Sanitary District will have a voice in this important decision that will impact every NSD ratepayer.

Upfront: Novato flushed with controversy Can a sanitary district get a little privacy around here?

by Peter Seidman
Thursday August 13, 2009

How did an organization known for its opposition to Walmart become involved in the debate over whether the Novato Sanitary District should turn over operations of a new wastewater treatment plant to a company started during the rule of Napoleon III? And how did that question get wrapped in a charge of union busting?

The Novato Sanitary District has been a generally quiet spot on the Marin scene--but not without its share of controversy. In May, federal agents entered the district's offices and carried out a search warrant. Exactly what they were looking for wasn't clear. Speculation ran through the district that the agents, who were with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal investigation unit, were looking for information regarding possible environmental violations that occurred in 2006 and 2007.

Even the district's manager-engineer, Beverley James, said she was unsure what the agents really were after in their search. The district still doesn't have a definitive answer; the case is remains an active investigation. The district "has not received any information" about the raid or any action that may come in its aftermath, says James.

Bay groups urge delay of outsourcing plan to EPA plagued French water company
July 27, 2009

NOVATO - A controversial plan to outsource jobs of a Bay Area water agency under investigation by the EPA to an international French water company - which has a record of environmental violations around the U.S. - should be delayed, according to a report to be released Monday by a prominent land use non-profit organization.

A NEWS CONFERENCE will be held Monday (July 27) at 5:30 p.m. behind the Margaret Todd Senior Center, 1560 Hill Road, Novato. to unveil the report and increasing opposition to the plan.

The Novato Sanitary District - meeting at the same location at 6:30 p.m. - is expected to finalize contract negotiations Monday with Veolia Water - only a week after announcing details to ratepayers and the public.

More than 100 people opposed to the plan attended a hearing last week at a NSD meeting where loud voices of opposition pointed to the lack of transparency by the district, and concerns the outsourcing would cost jobs, lead to sewage spills and rate increases.

Click here for the rest of the story

Novato Sanitary forges ahead on privatization plans
Jim Welte

In front of a packed house that included two on-duty Novato police officers, the Novato Sanitary District board voted unanimously Monday night to proceed with plans to privatize the operations of its $90 million wastewater treatment plant. While the meeting highlighted broad opposition to the proposal to turn over plant operations to Veolia Water North America, it stood in stark contrast to the board's acrimonious, messy meeting on the same subject a week earlier. The move gives the district the green light to begin contract negotiations with Veolia.

The board cited the $7.148 million the district says it would save by handing over the reins of the plant to Veolia, saying it was simply too significant to outweigh the opposition's concerns. Much of the criticism centered on the plan's long-term impact on the job security of the plant's nine current employees.  

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Bay Area Water Agency, Faced With Critics and FBI/EPA Raid
July 18,2009

NOVATO - The Novato Sanitary District has kept details of plans to outsource control over a new, $90 million wastewater plant largely secret from the public, and is now only holding a "public" meeting in response to intense and increasing criticism from the community, a citizens group charged today.

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