HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The city of Houston is bidding on private companies to operate a “critical” public water supply facility in southeast Houston.
The Southeast Water Purification Plant sits on 400 acres and processes 200 million gallons a day.
“Houston Public Works believes that the public is best served by the city operating its facilities. However, the existing agreement between the city and the Southeast Water Purification Plant partners allows for the exploration of outside vendors. While the city objected to using an outside vendor to operate this facility, voted city partners 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 opaque so far, is any indication of how the plant will actually be managed in the future there should be cause for concern,” Neil Gupta, water campaign director for the watchdog group Corporate Accountability, said.
Inframark, a Katy-based company, confirmed to ABC13 that they are bidding on the project and believe they are one of two finalists.
A search warrant was served on the Kingwood Wastewater Treatment Facility, operated by Inframark, on Feb. 17 alleging they falsified public records and compliance tests.
“It appears that the sample analysis submitted to the City of Houston was falsified or otherwise tampered with,” the search warrant states.
The document that gave investigators access to the facility said water that had not been properly treated was released into Ben’s Branch, which flows directly into Lake Houston, which is one of the city’s main sources of drinking water.
The investigation is ongoing, but a company spokeswoman said the facility is now in compliance and is cooperating with the city on the investigation.
She said the bid was submitted before the search warrant and they haven’t heard from the city about it since. The spokeswoman said the ball is in the city’s court.
The city told ABC13 they are unable to comment further as the bidding process is still active.
The Kingwood Wastewater Treatment Facility is located in Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s district. He gave the following statement:
“Inframark is currently still under criminal investigation, and if the investigation finds that Inframark is guilty of falsifying documents, then I think 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 that is compliant and safe. We want it to stay that way, not just for Kingwood, but for all facilities in the city of Houston.”
WATCH: HPD raided Kingwood sewage plant amid allegations of falsified documents
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