HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The City of Houston is in the process of bidding on private companies to run a “critical” public water supply facility in southeast Houston.
The Southeast Water Purification Plant is located on 400 acres and treats 200 million gallons a day.
“Houston Public Works believes that the City operating its facilities best serves the public. However, the existing agreement between the City and its partners in the Southeast Water Purification Plant allows for the exploration of outside vendors. While the City objected to using an outside vendor to operate this plant, the City’s partners voted to move forward with the bidding process,” Houston Public Works said in a statement.
The contract has the potential to last up to 20 years.
“I think if this process, which has been completely non-transparent so far, is indicative of how the plant will actually be managed in the future should be a cause for concern,” Neil Gupta, the water campaign director for watchdog group Corporate Accountability, said.
Inframark, a Katy-based company, confirmed with ABC13 that they bid on the project and believe they are one of two finalists.
A search warrant was served on the Kingwood Wastewater Treatment Facility, run by Inframark, on Feb. 17 with allegations that they were falsifying government records and compliance samples.
“It appears the sample analysis submitted to the City of Houston were forged or otherwise tampered with,” the search warrant reads.
The document granting investigators access to the facility said water that had not been properly purified was being released into Bens Branch, which feeds directly into Lake Houston, which is one of the city’s main drinking water sources.
The investigation is ongoing, but a spokeswoman for the company said the plant is now in compliance, and they are working with the city on the investigation.
She said the bid was submitted prior to the search warrant, and they have not heard from the city on it since. The spokeswoman said the ball is in the city’s court.
The city told ABC13 they are not able to comment further as the bidding process is still active.
The Kingwood Wastewater Treatment Facility is in Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s district. He issued the following statement:
“Inframark is currently still under criminal investigation and if that investigation does find Inframark to be at fault for falsifying documents, then I believe that changes their (Inframark’s) fate here in the City of Houston. We cannot allow contracts to be awarded to companies that cannot be trusted. Right now, we have our Kingwood Wastewater Treatment Facility compliant and safe. We want it to stay that way, not just for Kingwood but for all plants in the City of Houston.”
WATCH: HPD searched Kingwood wastewater plant amid allegations of falsified documents
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