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"Concerned Citizens" ask courts to stop Stockton OMI-Thames deal

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) - Opponents of a $600 million contract privatizing much of Stockton's water operations have asked a judge to invalidate the deal, claiming the city did not adequately consider its environmental impacts.

Daniel Selmi, attorney for the anti-privatization group Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton, told a judge Monday the city should have conducted an environmental review of planned upgrades to its sewer operations before signing the contract.

"This is completely at odds with long-standing case law under the California Environmental Quality Act," Selmi told San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt.

Stockton's City Council approved the 20-year contract in February with OMI-Thames Water.

As part of the deal, OMI proposed construction of a new wastewater treatment system so the city can meet strict state and federal discharge guidelines.

City attorneys have argued that Stockton does not have to consider the environmental effects of the upgrades until officials authorize construction to begin.

The judge did not rule in the case.

Concerned Citizens is joined in the lawsuit by the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club. The suit is one of the last challenges to the OMI-Thames contract.

The union representing the largest group of municipal waterworks employees reached a severance deal with city negotiators last month. The private company took over operations Aug. 1.

Stockton voters in March approved an initiative requiring voter approval on all major contracts that privatize city services. The initiative did not affect the OMI-Thames contract.