Bay Area Water Plan Referendum Election Set for June Next Year

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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.

The Novato Sanitary District board also refused to do nothing about a group of voters – from several hundred to several thousand – not allowed to vote in the Nov. 3 election for the NSD board. One of the board spots was decided by only 15 votes in favor on an incumbent.

The referendum qualified in late October. In less than 2 weeks, more than 4,100 signatures were gathered, nearly double the 2,178 needed to qualify it for the ballot.

Phil Tucker, project director for California Healthy Communities Network/Tides, said the NSD Board said hidden details in a contract to hand over control of a new wastewater plan to Veolia Water, would cost ratepayers millions of dollars more under privatization. Petaluma – with an operation similar to Novato’s – recently severed a deal with Veolia Water when it was found a public operation was less expensive to taxpayers.

“We look forward to the June 2010 election when all the voters in the district will hopefully be allowed to vote. It will allow all district ratepayers’ voices to be heard and determine whether or not their new $90 million wastewater plant operations should be privatized, and determine the fate of the $15.5, 5-year contract with the French-owned water conglomerate Veolia, ” said Tucker.

The board also disclosed that because of the pending referendum vote it cannot go forward with the Veolia Water contract, and district employees would return to public employee status Dec. 12.

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