February 1, 2019

STATEMENT: AG Shapiro’s lawsuit fail to address rotten core of Pittsburgh’s lead crisis

Today, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced a legal action against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) regarding the city’s ongoing lead crisis. But without mentioning private water corporation Veolia, which oversaw the PWSA just before news of the lead crisis broke, AG Shapiro is only addressing the tip of the iceberg.

For over a year, the Our Water Campaign coalition and city residents have demanded an open and transparent investigation into the role private water corporation Veolia’s played in the lead crisis. The residents’ call for  Veolia to be held accountable has been bolstered by local officials who are challenging and exposing Veolia’s abusive practices, ranging from the Pittsburgh city council, the state auditor general and the city controller.

Please see below for a statement from Corporate Accountability Senior Organizer Alissa Weinman and Madeline Weiss with Clean Water Action.

Alissa Weinman, Corporate Accountability

“If this is the entirety of the Attorney General’s action to address Pittsburgh’s lead crisis, then it misses the mark. In 2012, Veolia secured a contract in Pittsburgh that encouraged dangerous cost-cutting. Under its management, there was an unauthorized switch of corrosion-control chemicals — believed to be linked to lead leaching into drinking water. Lead levels spiked, and Veolia walked away from Pittsburgh with $11 million dollars while the PWSA and Pittsburgh residents were left to contain the crisis.

And this wasn’t Veolia’s first failed contract — from Flint, Michigan and Plymouth, Massachusetts to Nagpur, India, people and elected officials are sounding the alarm on the real impacts of Veolia’s abuses.

While it’s important for AG Shapiro to take action to  address Pittsburgh’s lead crisis, why is he only focusing on the authority that was left to pick up the pieces after a failed privatization contract, instead of the corporation — with a disastrous track record — that managed the authority when the lead crisis was triggered?

In order to actually achieve justice, AG Shapiro must now investigate what happened to cause lead leaching in the first place, not simply place blame on a public utility or only address its missteps in trying to assuage the crisis.

Privatizer Veolia oversaw the PWSA, walked away from Pittsburgh with $11 million dollars — and left thousands of people with unsafe or unaffordable water. A state investigation into Veolia is the best way to find answers on what may have triggered the crisis itself and holding it accountable for its abuses could lead to justice and much-needed funds to pay for lead line replacements. AG Shapiro should heed the calls of people most affected by this crisis and hold Veolia accountable.”

Madeline Weiss, Clean Water Action

“The scope of accountability levied by the Attorney General must be broadened to include Veolia. In addition, this announcement should not be used by public officials to push privatization, especially considering that this lead crisis was triggered during a PPP privatization contract with Veolia.”

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