By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
In a victory for providers and consumers of public services, city officials say a multi-million dollar contract with a private French conglomerate to manage the city’s 14 wastewater treatment plants will not be renewed.
The contract with Veolia, a $27 billion company based in Paris, is set to expire in June. The contract came with a couple of one-year extension options that will not be exercised, city officials told DC 37.
Union leaders and privatization opponents hailed the decision.
“We are pleased that the city has decided to bring this contract to an end,” said Jim Tucciarelli, president of Sewage Treatment and Senior Sewage Treatment Workers Local 1320, whose members operate the Dept. of Environmental Protection’s wastewater treatment plants and collections facilities.
DC 37 locals worked with their national union, AFSCME, and advocacy groups, such as Food and Water Watch and Corporate Accountability International, to make the case against privatization.
“This was a coalition effort,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said.
Public Employee Press first brought attention to the Veolia contract in New York City after the Flint, Mich., water crisis became a national story earlier this year. Other press reports on the tragedy in Flint – where residents’ complaints of contaminated water fell on deaf ears for two years, even as serious illnesses spread through the city – revealed the state of Michigan paid Veolia $50,000 in March 2015 to test the water. The company recommended water softeners for iron corrosion but didn’t expose the deadly lead contamination because such tests were not in the scope of the contract.
Public Employee Press pointed to Veolia’s murky record of chemical explosions, sewage spills and soaring water rate hikes that have been documented by global activists.
Some of Veolia’s critics expressed concern that the wastewater management contract was a “foot in the door” that could open opportunities to further privatize the city’s water system.
“I am glad our message reached officials who listened and agreed to do what’s best for New Yorkers,” Garrido said.
“And we want to thank the environmental advocates who stood ready to keep the pressure on and speak out against privatization.”