BROOKTRAILS TOWNSHIP NEWS
What You Need to Know about the Willits Wastewater Treatment Plant Dispute
Updated November 2014
The Brooktrails Township is a California public agency
committed to honoring its contracts with others and complying with
the Constitutions and laws of the United States and the State of
California. The Brooktrails Township expects others,
particularly other public agencies, to share that commitment. By
doing so, we all avoid the costs and stress associated with
Since 1997 the Brooktrails Township has been asking - and
then insisting - that the City of Willits
honor a contract providing for the allocation of
operating costs for the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Since 2005
the Brooktrails Township has been asking - and then insisting -
that the City of Willits
honor a contract providing for the allocation of construction costs for the new Wastewater Treatment
Plant. Since 2013 the Brooktrails Township has been asking that
the City of Willits
new Wastewater Treatment Plant be brought into compliance with
federal and state laws in order to avoid polluting the
groundwater and surface waters of the Little Lake Valley.
Thirteen years after the dispute started
in 1997, Brooktrails filed a lawsuit seeking declaratory relief
from the failure of the City of Willits to honor the contract.
The contract compliance issues involve
millions of dollars. Those millions of dollars represent per customer
sewer service charges totaling at least $24.50 per month
continuing for decades as follows:
- The City is demanding that Brooktrails ratepayers pay at least $7.25
a month to subsidize wastewater treatment
costs that should be borne by City ratepayers pursuant to the
- The City is demanding that Brooktrails
ratepayers pay at least $9.50 a month to subsidize wastewater
plant construction loan costs that should be borne by
City ratepayers pursuant to the contract.
- The City has taken wastewater treatment plant capacity previously purchased
by Brooktrails as capacity "exclusive" to Brooktrails; this has
created the possibility of a shifting of
costs from vacant lot owners to current Brooktrails
ratepayers amounting to a rate of at least $7.75 a month.
the policies establishing these long-term costs also would determine how
future wastewater treatment plant repair and capital improvement
costs would be distributed to Brooktrails ratepayers.
The dispute is complex but others have tried to succinctly
summarize it. The Local Agency Formation Commission
of Mendocino County in its November 2014 Public Review Draft of
the City of Willits Municipal Service Review states:
"On September 11, 1967 the City of Willits (City) and the
Brooktrails Resort Improvement District – now the
Brooktrails Township Community Services District (District)
entered into an agreement allowing the District to dispose
of up to 0.49 mgd ADWF of sewage into the City WWTF.
"The Agreement has been amended over the years: Amendment No. 2 in 1975
(which also repealed Amendment No. 1); Amendment No. 3 in 1982; and
Amendment No. 3 in 2007. In 1997, a dispute arose between the District and the City
regarding the allocation of operating costs for the WWTF.
This dispute, along with several other issues has been ongoing
for the past 17-years. In 2010, the District filed a lawsuit
in Mendocino County Superior Court seeking declaratory relief
regarding a number of issues, including metering to measure
the flow of sewage, accounting methods and allocation of
operating costs, annual audits, WWTF construction costs and
plant capacity, and disposal of treated effluent.
"The degree of time and energy devoted to this situation is best reflected in the
respective meeting agendas of the City and the District, as at practically every
regular and special meeting there is a closed session on this litigation. There does
not appear to be any resolution of these issues in the foreseeable future. As
the District said in a report to its ratepayers in June 2014:
'Township officials in 1997 did not believe litigation was
the best option for the region. As it turns out, it has been
made clear after 17 years that the only way all four
components of the dispute can be resolved is through an
‘independent adjudicator, be it judge, jury or arbitrator,’
as the [then] City Attorney threatened in 1997.'”
October, this was written in the Anderson Valley Advertiser:
"THE DISPUTE BEGAN
WITH accounting questions back in 1997 and culminated in a
lawsuit in 2010 after Brooktrails was unable to get the City
of Willits to comply with the with the terms of their
agreements. The main focus of the dispute now is that
Willits expects Brooktrails to pay for treatment capacity at the
new plant that is needed to treat sewage from Willits.
Brooktrails is willing to give up treatment capacity that it is
entitled to, but only if Willits will agree to pro-rate the
treatment plant construction costs based on the flow that each
party contributes to the plant. Willits is supposed to meter
the flow but the meter quit working in 2002 and Willits never
replaced it with a meter capable of accurately measuring the
amount of flow that each party contribute."
Full Explanation of the Dispute is Available
always, the Brooktrails Township provides an updated full
explanation of the dispute on line with extensive supporting
documentation. Use the link below to be fully informed.
A complete explanation of the Brooktrails viewpoint
as of November 2014 is available here
Summary of Recent Dispute-Related
Three recent occurrences seem to be related.
At its August 5, 2014 meeting the Brooktrails
Township Board of Directors adopted a resolution expressing a concern
that a large volume of partially treated sewage from the Willits
sewage treatment plant is percolating directly into the groundwater
in the Little Lake Valley. About 20% of this sewage is from Brooktrails
homes and businesses. The concern is the potential impact on our neighbors
in the Little Lake Valley who depend upon wells for their water.
Brooktrails had raised the issue in April 2013 based upon anecdotal reports
and subsequent data gathered by a local state-licensed engineering/hydrogeology business
showing that in excess of 100,000,000 million gallons per year
of sewage entered the sewage treatment plant but seemed to
disappear in the ponds associated with the plant, probably
percolating into the groundwater.
can read more about this problem and the Brooktrails effort to
get it corrected
The second related recent occurrence was the receipt of a September 17, 2014, letter from the Willits
Mayor to the Brooktrails Board President insinuating that
the local engineering/hydrogeology business mentioned above at the
behest of Brooktrails officials engaged in "a planned mission,
attempting to lay a trap with the hope that City staff would
violate its permit and accept diesel fuel mischaracterized as septage." It was, of course, not true.
The letter was written less than eight weeks before the upcoming
election. The Willits-area engineering/hydrogeology business
which has an
unsullied reputation is providing
professional engineering services to many local private clients.
The City had not made the letter public. Brooktrails did not
Unfortunately, the City
Manager at the October 28, 2014, Brooktrails Board of Director's
meeting insisted the letter be made public and that the
Brooktrails Board President respond.
download the letter exchange as well as a review of the
incident by another engineer (it is a large PDF file with
functional links to state websites). As noted in Board President
William's letter to Mayor Madrigal: "The Brooktrails Board is
choosing to not take offense at the accusations in your final
paragraph in the spirit of needed regional unity."
The third seemingly related occurrence was the presentation of an Agenda Summary
Report, Item No. 9e (1) for the November 12, 2014 Willits City
Council meeting. In it November 14, 2014, edition
The Willits News offered this report:
"Adding fuel to the already hot conflict
between Willits and Brooktrails, was Willits confirmation at the
Nov. 12 council meeting that its flow meter measuring the total
flow of sewage into the new plant was built wrong.
"Brooktrails advised the city in July 2013 it considered the new
meter to be inaccurate. The city took no action. In October 2013
Brooktrails had its contractor inspect the meter.
April 2014, Brooktrails provided the city with copies of the
inspection showing the meter had a number of installation flaws,
according to [City Attorney James] Lance.
"The city took no action.
July 2014, after the city sent Brooktrails a bill for payment
(based on the faulty meter) Brooktrails requested a copy of the
calibration records for the meter in question. Willits contacted
a meter calibration firm which advised the city there were
problems it had found in October 2013. The firm, MCC Control
Systems, confirmed the problem areas in August 2014. One
problem, a programming error, was corrected in September 2014.
The other involving the improper installation of the meter, was
not discovered during the original installation by Speiss
Construction Company in 2009.
"Lance suggested the city
contact Speiss to have the problem corrected.
installation error is corrected the city expects to use the
meter leaving the plant to determine flow rates through the
The Agenda Report and City staff have asked for a response
from Brooktrails. The Brooktrails General Manager sent a
the City Manager pointing out that both the sewer plant's permit
from the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Agreement
between the City and Brooktrails require a correctly functioning
meter measuring the sewage influent as it enters plant, as well
as any meter measuring the effluent as it leaves the plant.
That meter combination allows federal and state regulators to determine wastewater
losses from the various storage ponds. In the General Manager's
letter it was noted Brooktrails will be providing engineering
recommendations regarding the metering of influent.
A fourth recent occurrence which was
mentioned in our website June 2014 Report was the
November 10, 2014, of a new cause of action by Brooktrails related to the
above mentioned taking of Brooktrails purchased exclusive wastewater treatment plant capacity.
Simply, contrary to the project's Environmental Impact Report the new sewage
treatment plant was designed with less capacity than the old
plant leaving insufficient capacity for City customers after
deducting the Brooktrails-owned exclusive capacity.
Brooktrails pointed this problem out to the City in the Spring
of 2013 but was reluctant to file the action in court because if
successful it would impose a moratorium on new sewer connections
in the City. However, because of the new water connection
moratorium ordered by the State (see below), the effect on the
City would be minimal particularly since Brooktrails has
suggested the new matter be combined with the existing lawsuit
so that legal expenses would be reduced. And the City could address
both the water supply and sewage treatment capacity issues
within the same time period.
LITTLE LAKE VALLEY REGION
CONNECTION MORATORIUM ORDERED
BECAUSE OF THE IMPACT OF THE STATEWIDE DROUGHT
ON THE EEL RIVER, AS OF OCTOBER 17, 2014 AN ORDER
ESTABLISHING A MORATORIUM
ON NEW WATER CONNECTIONS HAS BEEN ISSUED BY THE STATE WATER
RESOURCES CONTROL BOARD TO ALL THE MUNICIPAL WATER PROVIDERS
AROUND THE LITTLE LAKE VALLY INCLUDING BROOKTRAILS TOWNSHIP,
OF WILLITS, AND PINE MOUNTAIN MUTUAL WATER COMPANY. (COPIES
OF THE ORDERS MAY BE DOWNLOADED FROM THE
STATE WEB SITE
WHICH INDICATES AN ADDITIONAL 19 OTHER WATER
SYSTEMS AROUND THE STATE RECEIVED SUCH ORDERS.)
BROOKTRAILS ORDER ALSO CAN BE
VIEWED HERE . FOR
A WATER EMERGENCY
HAS BEEN DECLARED
A water emergency has been declared in the Brooktrails Township
limiting water use by each Brooktrails water customer. As of
September 10, 2014, the limit has been revised to
gallons per day or 5,100 per month.
To help our community save water, visit
our links to useful water conservation information.
BROOKTRAILS 2013 CONSUMER CONFIDENCE REPORT ON DRINKING WATER QUALITY
Upcoming Recreation, Greenbelt, and Conservation Committee Meeting Agenda
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