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Readers: St. Louis Shouldn’t Sign Veoila Water Consulting Contract, Veolia Withdraws From Consideration

October 30, 2013 Politics/Policy 13 Comments

Those who voted in the poll last week don’t think St. Louis should enter into a contract with Veolia. Here’s the final tally:

Q: Should St. Louis Sign The Water Consulting Contract With Veoila?

  1. No 46 [68.66%]
  2. Yes 11 [16.42%]
  3. Unsure/no opinion 10 [14.93%]

I agree we shouldn’t sign this contract. I do think we need a transparent process to take a critical look at the operations of our water utility. We own it and continuing to own it means decisions are based on what’s best for the citizens, not stockholders of a private corporation. Others shouldn’t profit on our water.

You can politely give comptroller Darlene Green support for refusing to sign the contract so far by using the email form here.

Yesterday morning an alderman posted to Facebook that a “representative from the Mayor’s office read a statement this morning informing the Ways and Means committee that Veolia has withdrawn its proposal to do business with St. Louis’ Water Division.”

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. RyleyinSTL says:

    I’ll play devils advocate. People profit from other essential services like our healthcare here in the USA….why not water too?

    • samizdat says:

      Making profit off of the pain and suffering of human beings is immoral and unethical, and water is a human right. Ergo…Outside the argument that most so-called capitalistic endeavors these days make their profit largely at the expense of both human and animal life, using water as a commodity opens up a very large and toxic can of worms. So much so that not only has fracking caused direct damage to underground aquifers, but due to the peculiarities (I would say barbarities) of law there, some towns in Texas may literally run out of potable water, even though they sit right on top of aquifers. This is of course due to the ownership of the water rights under large swaths of Texas by T. Boone Pickens and others. (Now you know why ol’ T. was buying up water rights a decade ago).

      Frankly, as a human being, I don’t see why profit supersedes the lives of our fellow citizens and humans, other than most of the planets assets are controlled by a few thousand people, and they’d like to keep it that way. But these people are pathologically unwell, similar to those crazy hoarders one sees on the teebee.

  2. JZ71 says:

    Devil’s advocate, part two – if the water system were privatized, the one-time payment / windfall would go a long way towards funding the city’s pension obligations, which would allow the city to focus on its unfunded infrastructure needs.

    As for the “our” water argument, we don’t own the water, we pump it out of the river, treat it and distribute it. It’s no different than any other utility, and we don’t own any of them and we seem to do just fine. If we need to own our water system, then we probably need to own the sewers, the electrical grid, the hospitals, the cable TV, telephone, internet, public transit systems, as well. They are all either services or products, and if the private sector can do it more efficiently and at less cost to the end user, then why should the city (still?) be in the utility business?

    • samizdat says:

      But we own and built the infrastructure which draws and distributes that water. As for for-profit entities doing jobs better than government, have you seen the figures on fraud in the DoD? 100 BillionUSD/year. Yeah, they do really well at managing private systems, all right. Have you seen the state of the economy? Don’t tell me that’s the fault of the government (other than it’s not spending ENOUGH during the down times). Wall St. crashed the economy, not CRA, BTW. Another thing, a little bird told me that the County water system (a for-profit entity) is not keeping up with vital maintenance and infrastructure upgrades.

      I’m wondering why the City can’t at least issue bonds to put meters in EVERY home in the City, installed and monitored much like Laclede’s meters are. Hell, I’d even pay an extra tenUSD/mon to pay for it, then it lapses when it’s all paid for. If we wanted to pay a company to monitor–as Laclede does–that wouldn’t bother me. That’s the thing that bugs me about this whole Veolia BS: Where are the proposals to do the job ourselves? Not even mentioned, other than the spiel that the Water Division doesn’t have the money at hand.

      One might even think that the economy was crashed to take advantage of cash-strapped cities and munis, and rape the whole of the public financed and built infrastructure. Oh, right, that’s precisely what Shock Doctrine is all about.

  3. guest says:

    Dumb question. What’s wrong with the city running our own water department? And I disagree with JZ when he says a private company might be able to run the department cheaper than the city. How so? A private company is in business to turn a profit. Not so the city. In times of water scarcity, I don’t want a private company controlling our water. I’d rather be in a position to SELL water to other water users. Everyone knows STL public drinking water is among the best in the world. Why sell off such a treasure?

    • JZ71 says:

      How do we know until we ask?! I’m a big believer in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but to assume that the way we’ve been doing things for the last 50, 100 or 150 years is still the best way to run a utility, any utility, is, to put it bluntly, stupid. I’m not saying that we must privatize, I’m saying let’s look at what we have, see if there problem areas, see if things can be done more efficiently and see if privatizing makes sense? Water quality is independent of its delivery. A private company might not tolerate the inefficiencies that tend to creep into municipal systems, but we won’t know until we ask!

      • guest says:

        City water is very affordable and very high quality. I see no reason to turn the system over to an outside company. What if they go out of business? On the other hand, the idea now that MSD, a sewer district, will run our water department is just gross.

        • JZ71 says:

          Agree . . . but we won’t know until we ask / investigate.

          The real question is, is this an essential city service, like police and fire protection, or is it a utility / profit center, that competes with the private sector? If it truly is essential, why are we paying a separate fee? Why is it not included in the taxes we already pay?

          If it’s a utility, then why should the department not “prove” their worth? I get it, public employees don’t want to have their worth questioned – nobody does – nor do they want to work harder / more efficiently – which description largely depends on one’s perspective. But, admit it, it’s a monopoly, and monopolies are not known for being efficient. Look at what happened to Ma Bell when they were broken up – prices went down and options went up. Would we want to have the “choice” of only one cell phone carrier?!

          I certainly don’t have my heart set on making sure the department is privatized, at any or all costs. I’m mainly concerned about why they and others don’t want outsiders looking at their operation. If they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. But the reluctance to let outsiders in raises all sorts of red flags, at least for me!

          • jae says:

            “The real question is, is this an essential city service, like police and
            fire protection, or is it a utility / profit center, that competes with
            the private sector? If it truly is essential, why are we paying a
            separate fee?”

            I’ve always assume we pay a separate fee because it’s metered (like electricity and gas), while we all (theoretically) get the same amount of police and fire protection, access to parks, etc.

          • guest says:

            Many city addresses do not have water meters. It’s a perk!

          • JZ71 says:

            Trash used to be a free service – we now pay a fee for it. And, no, water for residential use is not metered, you pay a flat rate based on the number of fixtures your house has. As for using the “same amount”, as humans, we all use roughly the same amount for personal activities – washing, cooking and flushing doesn’t vary that much, but what does vary, significantly, is outside use – in the summer, keeping those lawns green can easily consume more than half of the water the system produces! The reality is that we have a system sized to serve a population of 800,000, so serving a population of 365,000 places little strain on the current treatment infrastructure. And the real question that needs to be asked is what does it cost to bill each of us every month (including going after those who don’t pay) for that $17 a month the water fee generates? What if we raised property taxes by $150 or $200 and just made our water “free”? We could eliminate the whole billing department! Plus, it would be based more on one’s ability to pay . . . .

  4. gmichaud says:

    How about if we turn Ameren and Laclede Gas into public utilities? I can’t tell you how hilarious it is these companies are guaranteed a profit. The continual addiction to fossil based fuels and the resultant global warming is in part because companies like Ameren and Laclede are clinging to their old profit models and have no real interest in developing alternate sources of energy.

    Co-ops work also, there are already a number of electric co-ops in Missouri.
    In any case I think the conversion of electric and gas into public utilities or co-ops is a far greater need at this moment in history than any movement involving the privatization of water.
    Good riddance Veolia.


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