In 2012, after 16 years of privatisation, Gladewater, Texas, remunicipalised its water and sewerage systems, exiting a contract with Veolia.
In 1996, Gladewater, a small city in Texas, privatised the operation, maintenance and management of its water and sewerage systems by contracting a distant subsidiary of Vivendi. The city awarded a 3-year extension in 2010.
By 2012, after years of poor performance by the company, the city had had enough. The private operator had violated federal water quality standards 16 times since 2004, and residents described the water as “dark brown” and “foul.” The company failed to perform maintenance works required by contract, and its water plant staff were under-qualified, lacking the necessary certification. City officials questioned whether the company was cutting corners and jeopardizing the safety of the city during emergencies by having operators split their time working in other cities instead of working full-time in Gladewater.
“No. 1, the city should get what it’s paying for and Veolia should be protecting the safety of our citizens,” Gladewater city manager Sean Pate said in July 2012. “I don’t believe we’re getting that.”
In October 2012, the city council voted unanimously to exit the contract. It paid $77,000 to end the deal early.
Veolia Water North America. Veolia Water North America is the largest private operator of municipal water and sewerage systems in the United States, serving an estimated 10.5 million people in 32 states. Veolia Water North America is a fully owned subsidiary of Veolia, the world’s largest water corporation, which provides drinking water to more than 101 million people and sanitation services to 71 million people worldwide.
Gladewater City Council. The City Council consists of seven members, including the mayor. It unanimously voted to exit the privatisation contract.
The city’s department of public works now manages the water and sewerage systems. The city hired qualified employees to run the systems as well as a director of public works and a director of utilities to oversee operations.
The City of Gladewater issues tax-exempt revenue bonds and certificates to finance water and sewerage system improvements. For example, in 2013, the city issued $3.7 million in bonds for infrastructure projects, including replacing water and sewer lines.
In October 2012, the City Council voted unanimously to exit the contract and bring the systems back into public hands. The city manager reported a “smooth transition” to public operation.
Food & Water Watch. “Veolia Water North America: A Corporate Profile.” August 2013, available at http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Veolia_Water_2013.pdf