Suez Environnement has a poor track record in the United States. From sewage overflows in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to contaminated drinking water in Gloucester, Massachusetts, serious problems have afflicted municipalities across the country after they turned their water or sewer systems over to Suez-owned United Water.
Under the leadership of Suez, United Water has grown into the second-largest private operator of municipal water systems in the United States. However, because the company has had a large number of high-profile failures, in recent years, it has won few new contracts to operate city water systems. As a result, it has focused on taking over other water companies to eliminate its competition..
Poor performance has cost the company several of its largest contracts. Suez’s flagship effort in the United States — a long-term contract with Atlanta, Georgia — ended 16 years early in 2003 after the city documented numerous problems from a large maintenance backlog to inadequate bill collection. After issuing 20 notices of noncompliance to United Water, the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, decided against keeping the company when its contract came up for renewal in 2007. Gloucester, Massachusetts, similarly ended its contract with the company after water quality violations in 2009.
Expensive service has cost United Water several other deals. From Gary, Indiana, to Fairfield-Suisun, California, cities across the country have ended contracts with the company, opting to run their water and sewer systems themselves. For these municipalities, public operation has saved money and improved services.
Reliable public operation with a renewed federal commitment to infrastructure funding will allow municipalities to responsibly address the growing infrastructure needs facing many of the nation’s aging water systems With access to a dedicated source of federal funding to improve water systems, cash-strapped municipalities can avoid the financial pressure that leads them into privatization schemes with companies like Suez in the first place. Public control and federal funding are the best ways for the United States to ensure that safe, clean and affordable water service is available for generations to come. Read more.