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

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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 15 students from Marin County on August 4, 2016.

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 2016, the event took place on June 2 and 3; 328 students and 39 teachers and chaperones 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

The Public Education Program participates in the North Bay Watershed Association (NBWA) Water Quality Committee through pollution prevention staff at various agencies. From 2006 to 2016, the 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. During 2016, the program was implemented at one high school in Marin County. The high school outreach program was expanded in 2013 when the Public Education Program joined Marin School of Environmental Leadership for a semester long project at a San Rafael 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. These events included the Marin County Fair (5 days); San Rafael and Novato Farmers Markets (four events total); Earth Day Marin Academy; Spring Marin Home and Garden Expo (two days); Novato Business Showcase; Fairfax Ecofest; Ross School District Presentation; Novato Scream on the Green; Mill Valley Trunk or Treat event; Marin School of Environmental Leadership High School Program.

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 3,518 environmental quizzes (adults and children) were administered at Public Education Program events during 2016. 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.

75th Marin County Fair Fairfax Ecofest Scream on the Green
  • 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 2016, 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.
  • Spring 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.
  • Novato Business Showcase: This event was sponsored by the Novato Chamber of Commerce. District staff administered quizzes.
  • 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 11-12.
  • Ross School District Presentation: The Ross School presentation is an annual event where wastewater-related stations are set up for students to learn about wastewater and microbial organisms used at a treatment plant, including a demonstration using a watershed diorama, and playing games
  • Scream on the Green: This event was sponsored by the Novato Chamber of Commerce. The Public Education Program staffed an outreach booth with educational activities that included a recycling wheel and environmental quizzes to promote wastewater pollution prevention information to school age children attending the event. Staff distributed Earth cards, lunch bags, frisbees, and puzzles to the approximately 275 children and 100 parents that stopped by the booth.
  • Trunk or Treat: This event was held on October 28 at the Mill Valley Community Center for children to safely trickor- treat. There were over 30 decorated trunks with treats and activities. Staff decorated a van with the theme “Wastewater Treatment Plant Laboratory” and provided educational materials to kids and parents.
  • Marin School of Environmental Leadership High School Program: The Marin School of Environmental Leadership (Marin SEL) is a high school program with 120 students participating in environmental projects to increase their knowledge and develop environmental stewardship and leadership abilities.
Novato Art, Wine &amp Music Festival Downtown Novato Farmers Market
  • Senior Center Health Fair: In conjunction with Novato Disposal, District staffed an outreach booth and distributed approximately 50 “packable” utensil sets, 25 compost buckets, and exchanged 5 mercury thermometers for new digital thermometers on February 17 for 80 participants. Staff also distributed sponges and brochures on household hazardous waste and composting.
  • North Bay Watershed Conference: District staff operated a booth and distributed 75 notebooks, 50 planters, sponges, “packable” utensil sets, and grease scrapers. The conference was held on April 22 and had approximately 125 attendees. 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.
  • Novato Art, Wine, and Music Festival: During this two-day festival on June 11-12, the District teamed up with Novato Disposal to distribute over 250 piggy banks, 100 “packable” utensil sets, 100 notebooks, 75 planters, 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 with over 575 participants. 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 a float entry to promote pollution prevention and zero waste programs and distributing lollipops to kids.
  • Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise: On July 8, District staff along with Novato Disposal staff performed a presentation about zero waste and household hazardous waste programs to organization members.
  • Novato Farmers Market: On September 20 during Pollution Prevention Week, Novato Disposal and District staffed a booth at the local Novato Farmers Market to promote Pollution Prevention Week and they distributed compost buckets, fliers, “packable” utensil sets, planters, notebooks, and sponges.
  • North Bay Science Discovery Day: District staff operated an outreach booth for this event that attracted over 15,000 attendees on October 29. Along with showing the mysterious and fascinating microorganisms of wastewater treatment plants, staff demonstrated what not to flush down the toilet and why, using magical magnetic stir plates and shaker flasks.

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

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 3,748 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 annually sponsors the “eco kids” page with environmental and pollution prevention messages and school projects. However, the FastFoward publication was not published in 2016. The Public Education Program will consider sponsoring FastForward in future years if it returns to publication.

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 2016, the District conducted one plant tour for five members of the Marin Association of Sewer and a school tour for 175 participants

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