Wastewater issues have risen to the fore of public concerns recent months, and they will take center stage again tonight at the Petaluma City Council Chambers at a special meeting of the City Council and Community Development Successor Agency.
The open session begins at 6:00 p.m. with only one agenda item: A report out of closed session on the Wastewater Issue Workshop, presented by Public Works and Utilities Director Dan St. John.
St. John will present a PowerPoint presentation "which walks the Council through a number of issues and potential avenues," he told Patch. No decisions are expected, as it is the Council's role to provide direction to staff as to what they would like further work on.
"I'd say that this is the beginning of the process to evaluate the plant relative to whatever new goals the Council may have for it," said St. John. "It's really the first step to the Council's goal to look for a higher level of 'business friendly'."
The Ellis Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant went online just a few years ago, in 2009, yet already it’s seen as inadequate for "high-grade industrial waste" such as that produced by breweries (Lagunitas) and dairies (Clover, Petaluma Creamery).
Such businesses are required to pre-treat their wastewater, but they have complained that pre-treatment is expensive, costing them millions each year. “Unhappy businesses make the Chamber of Commerce and many at City Hall nervous these industries will pick up and leave, robbing the city of critical tax revenue and jobs,” as Patch reported earlier this year.
Costs of upgrading Ellis Creek – a facility built at a cost of $120 million that already falls short of present-day needs – would be expensive and require still more increases in rates.
Local businesses are already paying more for the pre-treatment of their wastewater. According to Tony Magee, founder and chief operating officer, Laguinitas spends $250,000 every month to truck their brewery discharge to the East Bay Municipal District for treatment, or $3 million per year.
Many of the local businesses interviewed by Patch and other media that are affected by high wastewater treatment costs include Clover, Petaluma Creamery, Cow Girl Creamery, Alvarado Street Bakery, as well as Lagunitas.
The combined meeting of the City Council - CDSA will be called to order to closed session at 5 p.m., for discussion of personnel performance evaluation and conference with legal counsel over existing litigation.
When the Council re-convenes at 6, there will be a period for open public comment on items not on the agenda. Which means anything but the wastewater issue.