Novato Sanitary District | Creating Worth From All of Novato's Waste

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(415) 892-1694
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Water Education

Novato Sanitary District collaborates with neighboring agencies to sponsor and support a variety of innovative programs to help educate children about wastewater treatment, improve science and math understanding and help individuals learn how they can protect the environment.

Award Winning Collaborative Public Education Program

In 2007, the Wastewater Treatment Agencies of Marin County Public Education Program was created by six Marin County Sanitary Districts

  • Novato Sanitary District
  • Central Marin Sanitary Agency (CMSA)
  • Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District (LGVSD)
  • Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM)
  • Sanitary District No. 5 of Marin County
  • Sausalito-Marin City Sanitary District (SMCSD)

By working together, these agencies can do more and reach more people. Many of the activities that the District has been involved in are organized through this program and are discussed throughout these pages.

Algebra Academy

Since 2011, the District has teamed up with the North Bay Leadership Council and Veolia Water to conduct a highly successful workshop with the Algebra Academy. District staff conduct a wastewater math lesson, perform laboratory tests to apply mathematic principles, and provide a plant tour.

The Algebra Academy targets middle school English-as-a-Second-Language students and seeks to inspire these students to learn math and science. One of the Academy’s goals is to get students excited about careers in math and the sciences so that they are motivated to finish secondary school and go on to a higher education institution.

The Academy runs for about three weeks in the summer and brings eighth graders to the workplace to meet with engineers, scientists, finance personnel and others who use math and science in their day to day work. Bringing these students into an active workplace allows them to make the connection between studying math and science and future career possibilities. In 2015, the District hosted 16 students from Marin County on July 27.

Wetlands Days

Wetlands Days is a successful program sponsored by the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin (SASM) in collaboration with a variety of other non-profit organizations and public agencies including the District. Wetlands Days teaches 3rd graders from Novato and other areas in Marin County about wildlife, the environment, and habitats.

During the program, students and staff make use of SASM’s unique facilities, including the treatment plant, marsh, bird watching areas, and laboratory facilities to address a variety of other environmental and life science issues. The variety of facilities makes Wetlands Days particularly attractive to local educators. In 2015, the event took place on June 4 and 5; 299 students and 45 adults participated.


District and Veolia staff teach students about birds and the importance of our water environment at the 2015 Wetlands Days program

A YouTube video was created to show the benefits of the Wetland Days program for the students:

High School P2 Audit Project

Novato Sanitary District participates through this program through the collaborative Public Education Program. In 2015, Novato Sanitary District staff participated in an annual school internship program for seniors interested in learning about careers in the environmental and wastewater fields.

From 2006 to 2015, the North Bay Watershed Association (NBWA) Water Quality Committee has sponsored a program called the “High School P2 Audit Project.” In the past, this program was a five to seven-day series of presentations that made students aware of copper and mercury sources that exist in their own schools. Students collect and analyze samples from their school and the environment to determine levels of mercury and copper they are regularly exposed to.

This program helps students understand the differences between background levels and what is being discharged from their science labs, cafeteria, janitor's closet, nurse’s office, and any other area that the students decide to sample.

The high school outreach program was expanded in 2013 when we joined Marin School of Environmental Leadership for a semester long project at a Terra Linda High School to discuss and perform sampling for metals, bacteria, pH, and dissolved oxygen as well as analyze for pharmaceuticals and contaminants of emerging concern in the bay, local creeks, and at a wastewater treatment plant.

Outreach Booths

The District and the Public Education Program staff outreach booths at many public events in which pollution prevention issues are addressed.

EDUCATIONAL QUIZZES: Visitors to the booths have an opportunity to take a quiz on pollution prevention topics. The quizzes are intended both to educate the individuals who take them and to provide information on the level of awareness of the public on particular issues. A total of 2,633 environmental quizzes (adults and children) were administered at Public Education Program events during 2015. Quiz questions focused on what should and should not be flushed down the toilet, the proper disposal of FOG and pharmaceuticals, and the sources of copper, cyanide, PCBs, and dioxin.

ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT RELEVANT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: In addition to administering quizzes, booth staff spoke with members of the public and answered their questions regarding pollution prevention, wastewater treatment and water recycling, and other environmental issues. Booth staff especially sought to make contacts with local teachers, who are informed of the school outreach activities offered by the Public Education Program.

Marin County Fair: This fair offers an opportunity to survey the public on knowledge about pollution prevention. People return to the booth each year for the prizes.

San Rafael, Novato, and Sausalito Farmers Markets: The Cities of San Rafael and Novato sponsor weekly Farmer’s Markets with vendors and entertainment in downtown San Rafael and Novato. In 2015, the Public Education Program staffed outreach booths at the markets during Pollution Prevention and Earth Day Weeks. At these events, District staff provided fliers, educational brochures, administered environmental quizzes, and answered pollution prevention questions.

Earth Day at Marin Academy: The Public Education Program participated in an assembly with environmentally friendly resources, exhibits, speakers, and interactive booths.

Italian Street Painting Festival: The Italian Street Painting Festival is held in downtown San Rafael in front of the Mission, where local artists paint themed squares with chalk on the pavement.

Exhibits at the 2015 Italian Street Painting Festival

NBWA Conference: The NBWA Biannual Conference highlights environmental concerns with relevant speakers and presentations that inform attendees about challenges that they may be facing in the future.

Marin Home & Garden Expo: The Spring and Fall Marin Home Show includes world-renowned architects and speakers who present historical and architecturally significant topics. The Marin Builders Exchange home improvement companies set up home improvement booths.

Marin Senior Information Fair: The senior information fair, held on October 21, 2015, focused on informing seniors about resources that are available to them in the community. At the fair, the Public Education Program promoted its unused pharmaceutical take-back program.

Annual Tiburon Salmon Release Festival: During this festival, salmon that have been raised by children are released into San Francisco Bay. This year’s event included environmental booths, live music, and a barbecue.

Novato Business Showcase: This event was sponsored by the Novato Chamber of Commerce. District staff administered quizzes and distributed over 50 household battery disposal buckets.

Fairfax Ecofest: Fairfax Ecofest is an annual event where local businesses and community members with expertise in sustainability interact with the community. This festival was held on June 13-14

Soroptimist International of Novato: On March 4, District staff presented to this local club about zero waste and household hazardous waste programs in Novato. The presentation was interactive, as staff answered many participants’ questions. On October 9, an interview was conducted with the Soroptomist group for local TV (and YouTube).

Novato Clean and Green Day: On April 25, District staff provided debris boxes and recycling containers for a community cleanup event.

School Tour of Novato: In conjunction with Novato Disposal, District staff operated an outreach booth and distributed over 100 piggy banks and more than 75 “packable” utensil sets. Staff also conducted a “recycle toss” game and set up coloring/sticker table for kids to decorate piggy banks.

Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise: On May 12, District staff performed a presentation about zero waste and household hazardous waste programs to organization members.

Novato Art, Wine, and Music Festival: During this two-day festival on June 13-14, the District teamed up with Novato Disposal to distribute over 250 piggy banks, 200 “packable” utensil sets, and “pop-up” clean and green sponges. The booth featured educational activities that included a recycling wheel, environmental quiz questions, and piggy bank-decoration table. The booth was full of activity. Staff answered from festival goers about food waste and recycling in Novato.

Novato 4th of July Parade: Novato Disposal and District staff participated in the parade, sponsoring two float entries to promote pollution prevention and zero waste programs and staffing a booth.

Novato Farmers Market: During Pollution Prevention Week, District staffed a booth at the local Novato Farmers Market to promote Pollution Prevention Week and they distributed compost buckets, fliers, packable utensils, and sponges

Go With the Flow Juggler Show Teaches the Importance of Keeping Water Clean

The Public Education Program staged the first Go with the Flow juggler show in 2011 and has continued to provide these entertaining and informative shows to schools throughout Marin County.

In 2015, the Public Education Program put on 20 juggler shows, reaching 3,679 students. For these shows the Public Education Program teams up with Doug Nolan of ROCK STEADY JUGGLING to provide an assembly style program in which Doug used juggling, magic, and comedy to teach students about the importance of keeping our water clean. Topics include wastewater treatment, being mercury-free, and the many ways to keep Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG) out of our household drains. Doug informs the students about the problems associated with dumping FOG down the drain while he flirts with disaster by juggling a whole turkey, a skillet with fried eggs and sausages, and a bowling ball!

“Blue Ribbon Sponsor” for the FastForward School Outreach Publication.

The Public Education Program was a “Blue Ribbon Sponsor” for the FastForward school outreach publication. The newsletter prints 20,000 copies each month during the school year and distributes them to all public and private schools in Marin County. The Public Education Program sponsors the “eco kids” page with environmental and pollution prevention messages and school projects. A total of 200,000 print copies were distributed to school age children during 2015.

Public Tours and Presentations to Community Groups

The District conducts tours of the Novato Plant upon request from schools, community groups, and other members of the public. Tours of District facilities are available by appointments and the District offers public speakers, free of charge, to present programs for organizations within its service area about recycled water, wastewater treatment, and pollution prevention. In 2015, the District conducted three plant tours for more than 70 people for the California Water Environment Association (CWEA), the Algebra Academy students, and students enrolled in a school for the developmentally disabled.

Call the District Office to find out about scheduling a tour: 415-892-1694