The City of Poughkeepsie’s manholes and catch basins will be cleaned, on a rotating basis, every three years.
Its 720 water valves will be exercised at least once every three to five years, and its water pipes will undergo maintenance during roughly the same timeframe.
All of that scheduled work on the city’s water and sewer lines has not been possible in recent years, City Administrator Marc Nelson said, with the Department of Public Works spread thin.
“Over the years during which the city’s financial situation was deteriorating, there was less and less maintenance being done,” Nelson said. “The city unfortunately had gotten away from this regular rotating cycle of maintenance and repair,” which led to more problems with the system.
But the city expects service to improve, and costs to decrease, through handing the maintenance and repair of water and sewer system over to a private company.
Veolia North America, an energy, water and waste management company, which has been working with the city since 1980, according to Nelson, assumed those duties on July 1. The agreement expanded Veolia’s responsibilities running the city’s waste-water treatment facility.
The annual cost of the contract will be $1.4 million, which Nelson said equates to a savings of $400,000 against the city’s budgeted costs to handle the service itself in 2019.
And, he said, it will not cost anyone their job. Workers from the city’s water department will be transferred to different departments within the DPW. The transferred employees, Nelson said, will allow the city to perform sidewalk repairs in-house rather than outsourcing, and will add extra resources for tree removal.
And though the city and Veolia have a 10-year contract, Nelson said the city can terminate the expanded agreement and transfer the duties back to the DPW at any time.
The city has 143 miles of water and sewer lines. Veolia “hit the ground running,” the day after its contract went into effect. According to a report from DPW Commissioner Chris Gent, Veolia started its first month with 21 completed repairs between July 2 and July 17. The company performed maintenance and repairs on six catch basins, 14 fire hydrants and one household waterline repair.
The company plans to create an electronic mapping system to upgrade the paper maps currently used to locate underground pipes, according to Nelson.
The Veolia name may be familiar to residents in relation to the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. The company was paid for consulting work after the city began using river water in April 2014. Company officials said it entered into a contract with Flint in 2015 for a one-time, one-month analysis of water disinfection biproducts, discoloration, and taste and odor issues; officials said the analysis did not include lead and copper testing.
Nelson said the city has not had any issues with the company’s performance in their 30-year relationship, and declined to comment on the company’s connection to Flint.
Nelson said the expanded relationship with Veolia “brings significant new resources to bear on many long-standing issues and deferred maintenance.
“Residents should expect to see this important infrastructure work progressing throughout all parts of the city,” he said.