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Oklahoma City Awards Wastewater Contract To Company Behind Hugo’s Water Issues

The city of Oklahoma City’s Chisholm Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant at Coffee Creek Road and N. Western Avenue in Edmond.
Brent Fuchs
/
The Journal Record

The Oklahoma City Council approved a contract Tuesday with a company recently fined by the state. The Council voted 6-2 to award a five-year, $13.2 million contract with Severn Trent Services to run the city’s wastewater treatment facilities.

Severn Trent is the UK-based company that recently agreed to pay the state Department of Environmental Quality nearly $1 million to settle claims about poor water quality and reporting problems in Hugo. The fine was originally $3.12 million. Councilman Ed Shadid opposed the deal.

“A lot of the DEQ's findings weren't necessarily specific to drinking water. It had to do with inadequate record keeping and substandard sampling practices,” Shadid said during the council meeting. “[It] just basically went to management. So it seems like you could have some concerns, regardless of whether it's drinking water or wastewater."

Watch Tuesday's city council meeting. The wastewater treatment discussion begins at 28:50

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The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports the five-year agreement allows for two more renewals:

First-year costs include $10.9 million for operation and maintenance and $2.3 million for electrical fees. The contract requires a $3 million letter of credit before initiation of services on Jan. 1 next year. Veolia has operated Oklahoma City’s wastewater treatment facilities for 33 years. It will continue to operate the five plants alongside Severn Trent from April through the end of December, Vice President of Operations Bill Roach said previously.

Councilman Pete White, who serves on the city’s Water Utilities Trust Authority, said he had researched the matter to ensure the company would not have problems in Oklahoma City.

“You know, it's the kind of a business where when you do what you do, and you treat what they treat, it's pretty difficult to maintain a spotless record,” White said. “We've had problems here in Oklahoma City. We've never had a fine of that magnitude, but we've had fines in our operation."

City Manager Jim Couch said during the council meeting he wasn’t worried Hugo’s issues would recur in Oklahoma City, Brus writes:

The yellowish-brown color of the tap drinking water there was largely due to summer floods that drove up iron and manganese content, Couch said, and that happened to other communities in the area that weren’t under Severn Trent’s oversight. Oklahoma City staff traveled to Atoka to help that municipality deal with similar issues. Couch also downplayed the significance of treatment byproduct dispersal, attributing testing failure to a single, unidentified person. Since then, Severn Trent has changed its quality controls.

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