|Sewer Rate Increase Unrelated to Treatment
June 3, 2006
The June 2, 2006, West County Times carried the following letter to the editor from Charles T. Smith:
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, in the Richmond City Council chamber, there will be a hearing on a proposed sewer-use rate change, amounting to an increase of more than 40 percent over a five-year period. To understand the injustice of this proposed rate increase, we have to review a little history.
On Dec. 18, 2001, City Council members Tom Butt, Nat Bates, Richard Griffin, Gary Bell and Mindell Penn voted to privatize the wastewater treatment plant.
They did so despite strong testimony from residents, environmentalists, regulatory agencies, union representatives and experts in the field -- all of whom spoke in favor of abandoning the dilapidated plant and instead send our sewage to the EBMUD treatment plant.
City Manager Isiah Turner, whose wife, Penny Turner, was a former employee of US Filter, the firm seeking the contract, also spoke in favor of privatization.
Butt led the charge to privatize. Once this decision was made, everyone who understood the issues could predict the inevitable result: more waste of taxpayer money, resulting in eventual significant rate increases, which we now see before us.
Isn't it time to hold these public officials accountable for this irresponsible management? Fight back!
Charles T. Smith
While I agree that Mr. Smith, as well as the rest of us, should be concerned about Richmond’s failure to make some appropriate choices regarding wastewater, the record shows that his focus on the treatment plant and Veolia (formerly U.S. Filter) is totally misplaced.
The rate increase has nothing to do with contracting with Veolia to operate the treatment plant. The purpose is to provide much needed and long-overdue improvements to the collection system.
I provide a copy of my E-Forum of May 16, 2002, below to refresh our collective memory of the options the City Council had before it at that time. The proposal from EBMUD to operate the wastewater plant was not only more expensive than that of U.S. Filter, it was not complete. EBMUD would not even commit to its own cost proposal because of various contingencies, predominantly the unknown cost of hazmat remediation along the proposed pipeline route.
It was never a part of EBMUD’s proposal to take responsibility for the collection system, and its decrepit condition would have eventually resulted in the need for a rate increase regardless of what entity the City would have chosen to treat the effluent.
What Mr. Smith should be concerned about is the City’s continued foot dragging in dealing with the collection system, the continuing damages and fines related to spills and overflows, the ongoing lawsuit regarding the collection system with San Francisco Baykeeper and the West County Toxics Coalition, Richmond’s continuing violations of CEQA by approving new projects without adequate sewage capacity and the failure to adopt a lateral management policy because it is bottlenecked in the city attorney’s office.
Six Year Effort to Fix Sewage District Culminates in Award of
Contract to U.S. Filter
One of the bitterest political battles in recent Richmond memory
culminated on May 14, 2002, when the City Council voted to execute a
20-year contract with U.S. Filter to operate the Sewage District No.
1 wastewater treatment plant that serves approximately 60 percent of
Richmond. Ironically, the event received no attention from the media
– not even the West County Times. The vote was 6-0-3. The final
action followed over five months of negotiations after the City
Council voted 5-2-2 in December, 2001, to initiate negotiations with
U.S. Filter to operate the Richmond Sewer District No. 1 treatment
My personal favorite was EBMUD. Unlike the other three, which would
continue operating the Richmond plant, EBMUD proposed to pipe the
sewage to its Oakland treatment plant, which had enormous excess
capacity. The solution seemed a no-brainer. EBMUD could handle the
excess flow with minimal additional expense and use the new revenue
stream to actually reduce the costs to all of its ratepayers. For
Richmond, the responsibility of a wastewater plant would go away
forever, along with the stink, the mosquitoes, the history of inept
management by both Council and staff and the risk of fines for water
For additional history on Richmond’s sewage collection and treatment system, click on the following:
Sewer Ban Coverage In Berkeley Daily Planet
Sewer Hook Up Moratorium
The Smell of Sewage in the Morning
CCT Editorial Calls On Richmond To Deal With Sewers
The High Cost of Old Sewers
Correction on Sewer Maintenance Information