April 10, 2016
By Diane Williams
New York, NY – Veolia, the giant conglomerate that said Flint’s lead-tainted water supply was in compliance with state and federal standards, for years has drained New York City of millions of taxpayer dollars, critics charge. And with its hefty city contract set to expire in June, opponents of outsourcing public services are set to battle the $29 billion French company.
“We urge the city to not renew, extend or issue new contracts to run any part of New York’s public wastewater system with Veolia – or any for-profit management company,” said Jim Tucciarelli, president of Sewage Treatment and Senior Sewage Treatment Workers Local 1320, whose members operate the city’s 14 wastewater treatment plants and collections facilities.
Since 2011, New York City has paid Veolia as much as $60 million to oversee the Department of Environmental Protection’s wastewater system, based on an analysis of DEP documents obtained by DC 37. The initial $4 million contract was approved by the New York City Municipal Water Finance Authority with little public scrutiny. Two one-year extensions are pending.
The global water industry is a rich $600 billion pool that Veolia wants to dive in. The company leverages management of New York City’s renowned wastewater system to woo officials in other cities.
Veolia’s murky record of chemical explosions, sewage spills and soaring water rate hikes have been documented by global activists demanding corporate accountability. The Flint water crisis has served to magnify the attention on Veolia.
Michigan paid Veolia to test Flint’s water, but the company’s March 2015 report made no mention of deadly lead contamination because, according to a Veolia spokesman, “lead and copper levels … was not part of [Veolia’s] scope of work.”
To shrink DEP’s $1.2 billion annual overhead, Veolia slashed 120 unionized sewage treatment workers’ jobs. Tucciarelli said, “Deep staff cuts have DEP running a bare-bones operation and understaffing jeopardizes workers’ safety and the environment.”
The current New York City contract is of particular concern because, as Katherine Sawyer of Corporate Accountability International noted, “Veolia has a track record of using these Trojan horse consulting contracts to get its foot in the door, opening opportunities to further privatize cities’ water systems.”