April 09, 2004 – Information has been circulating in the global business media in the last two days about the V.I. government's $123 million contract with a Houston, Tex. company to design, construct and operate one wastewater treatment facility on St. Thomas and another on St. Croix.
The information had not been made public locally by Government House.
The contract awarded to VWNA Caribbean, a subsidiary of Houston-based Veolia Water North America Operating Services Inc., is for a 20-year period according to the various reports, which cited a Wednesday release from Veolia's parent company in Paris as the source of their information.
"The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands has awarded its first-ever design-build-operate (DBO) contract to a private-sector firm for the development of a comprehensive, long-term solution to the wastewater management needs of the St. Thomas and St. Croix islands," a Houston Business Wire account stated.
According to various postings online, the St. Croix facility will be constructed at Anguilla and the St. Thomas one will be at Red Point, south of the Cyril E. King Airport. The St. Thomas project will include "the decommissioning of existing lagoons on that site" accounts stated.
Both facilities, according to various reports, will have the capacity to treat about 4 million gallons of wastewater a day.
"The plants will help the territory reduce its ocean discharges under a 1966 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreement," Business News Americas reported. It quoted Veolia spokeswoman Christine Kaluza as saying: "The territory was facing a consent decree to make changes to its aging water treatment plant [on St. Croix]. After the two plants are operational, there will still be discharge, but it will be treated to current EPA standards."
Kaluza said the DBO contract is the company's preferred method as it "eases some of the issues, and [it] is more efficient for the municipal entity to select one company to see the process through."
WaterTech Online and Business News Americas cited the release as stating that a five-year renewal option for continued operations is also part of the contract.
"The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands will issue bonds to pay for the development," Business News Americas noted.
Veolia's release quoted Joe Ortiz, regional vice president of Veolia Water North America, as saying, with regard to the Virgin Islands: "This is some of the most pristine water in the world. Our objective is to keep this water at its unspoiled level by treating the waste stream using our proven technology and years of operating expertise."
Also quoted in the release was Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood.
"Critical in our decision was that we wanted the highest possible international standards for these two projects," Callwood said. "Veolia Water provides that standard."
Veolia Water expects the design phase of the contract will take 10 months, and that the construction phase to follow will take about two years. Both wastewater plants should be fully operational in two and a half years, it said..
The Legislature was called into special session on March 23 by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who sought authorization for a $180 million bond issue for construction of the wastewater treatment facilities and other purposes, including emergency road repairs, cleanup of the Anguilla and Bovoni landfills, replacement of Central High School and Addelita Cancryn Junior High, and construction of a new high school to serve the western portion of St. Thomas.
At the special session, senators recalled that administration officials had said last year that $141.5 million of the $268 million in bonds issued by the government in December would go for capital projects, including $16.5 million for two wastewater treatment plants. The $180 million in new bond revenues Turnbull now sought called for the allocation of $70 million to complete the financing of the estimated $52 million cost of the new treatment plants.
The governor said at the time that two firms, VWNA Caribbean and Veolia Water S.A., had been awarded contracts for the design, construction and operation of the two treatment facilities. At the March 23 session, most of the senators presented with thick binders containing the contracts complained that they had had little time to peruse the voluminous contents. (See "New bond issue idea finds little favor in Senate".)
The session ended after midnight when an amended proposal to authorize a new $105 million bond issue squeaked by on a vote of 8-7. The authorization earmarked the money for the two treatment plants, sewage system and road repairs and cleanup of the two landfills.
Some accounts of the last two days said that Veolia Water also as been working with the territory on an emergency basis since early February to help repair St. Croix's wastewater collection system and pump stations. "We quickly mobilized a team of experts and moved in to help," Ortiz was quoted as saying. "Immediate access to technology and expertise is just one of the many benefits local governments realize when partnering with the private sector for water services."
Efforts to obtain comment from V.I. officials on Friday a government holiday were unsuccessful.
According to the company's release, Veolia Water North America, formerly known as USFilter Operating Services, operates some 400 municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment facilities in the United States and Canada. In addition to designing, building and operating such facilities, the company provides services to industrial markets including automotive, refining, chemical, steel, and oil and gas.
VWNA's operations serve about 14 million people in more than 600 communities. The company is part of Veolia Water, the No. 1 water company in the world serving more than 110 million customers. Veolia Water is a division of Paris-based Veolia Environnement, the largest environmental services company in the world, with more than 310,000 employees in about 80 countries and annual revenues of more than $28.6 billion.
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