April 21, 2016

Statement: Organizations urge Flint officials to reject deal with for-profit water providers

Groups Urge City Leaders to Support Democratic, Public Control of Water System

“As the water crisis in Flint has unfolded over the last two years, and our community has faced the devastating consequences of lead poisoning, it has become abundantly clear that this crisis was a result of the suspension of democratic governance of our water system via the emergency manager system. It has also become clear that investing in infrastructure and replacing the lead pipes that continue to cause devastating health problems for the community must be at the top of the city’s priority list.

And yet, just last week we learned that the City of Flint issued a request for proposal (RFP) that could open the door for private water corporations to obtain contracts with the city that could threaten democratic control of the water system. This RFP is a red herring — it does not address replacing the lead pipes, and will not ensure the health and safety of Flint residents. Instead, it looks to private water corporations with track records of privatizing water systems and cutting corners in order to increase their own profits.

The private water industry has already failed Flint once. Veolia, one of the world’s largest for-profit water corporations, carried out a $40,000 water quality assessment contract in 2015, which Veolia executive David Gaddis promised would “ensure water quality for the people of the city of Flint.” Instead, the corporation gave the city’s poisoned water a clean bill of health. Veolia had the opportunity to use its ‘expertise’ to sound the alarm on the lead crisis. Instead, it used its expertise to position itself for another contract.“Under other contracts like the one Flint is considering, Veolia and its competitors in the private water industry have a history of making dangerous recommendations to cities. These recommendations range from laying off workers and cutting corners on environmental safety programs, to implementing new billing systems that systematically overcharge residents. While they cut corners, they siphon money out of public water systems, often seeking to deepen their involvement in the management of water systems. In many cases, Veolia and its competitors have used these contracts as a foot-in-the-door strategy to increase private control over — and profit from — municipal water systems.

The City of Flint cannot afford to let that happen. We must not allow our city to be used for private gain at the expense of democratic governance. We must invest in fully public solutions that address the true crisis at hand. Therefore, we call on the city to:

o   Reject any deal with a water privatizing corporation, and

o   Seek and invest in fully public solutions for Flint’s water needs.

In order to truly address the crisis, we also call on the state to fund the replacement of all lead pipes in Flint and to repeal the emergency manager law.”

Endorsing organizations:

AFSCME International

Corporate Accountability International

Food & Water Watch

Michigan Nurses Association

Michigan United

Progress Michigan

Water You Fighting For?


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