Watchdog Group Has Its Eye On Veolia, City's New Water Division Consultant

Veolia has similar contracts with Pittsburgh, New York City, and Winnipeg, though they are all fairly new. In its RFP bid, Veolia points to its work in New York City as an example of successful cost-cutting. According to a newsletter put out by the New York Department of Environmental Protection, Veolia's so-called "Operation Excellence" was able to cut the utility's costs on chlorine and fluoride, and save money on vehicle maintenance.

"The total savings of these and other quick wins is between $8 and $9 million annually. They are also a good representation of what OpX is working on: maintaining our standards but in a smarter and more efficient way," the newsletter concludes.

The partnership has not always gone over so smoothly. In Winnipeg the proposed relationship with Veolia received massive opposition over the same issues raised by Grant before its ultimate approval in 2010. Scrutiny of Veolia's presence in the city is even a central tenet of the Canadian branch of the Occupy movement.

In response to general questions about past troubles in other cities, Matt Demo, a spokesperson for Veolia Water North America, characterizes the company this way: "We've been doing this for 150 years ... We do a lot of crazy, exciting things. It's a very forward-thinking, environmentally-friendly company."

Grant, the researcher with Food & Water Watch, concedes that she's not sure what to expect from these types of consulting contracts and says it appears to be a relatively new model for Veolia. But she still has a lot of questions.

"It's concerning that the contract is so short-term, and they're going to share in the savings. It's going to give the company a huge incentive to recommend short-term cost reductions," says Grant. "Cutting corners on upkeep and maintenance could lead to greater capital improvement costs down the road."

After the jump, the full Veolia bid which outlines its plan to save St. Louis money.

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