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Concerns Over Veolia Corporate Behavior Delays City Water Contract

(via Flickr/Matthew Black)

The city's top elected officials will wait to sign a contract that could help St. Louis save some money in its water division.

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment today decided not to approve a $250,000 agreement with Veolia Inc. after a local activist group called members of the board and raised concerns about the company's human rights practices and financial condition. Veolia is being asked to help the city find cost savings in the water division to avoid rate hikes and free up dollars for capital improvements. (The contract is the last item in this agenda from today).

The phone calls and emails were enough to prompt Comptroller Darlene Green and aldermanic president Lewis Reed to push for more investigation.

"It's not out of the question that they may do a good job for us," Green said. "We don't know. We have several complaints from our citizenry, and I want to honor their complaints."

Mayor Francis Slay, the lone voice pushing to sign the contract today, pointed out that Veolia already has a contract with the city to operate the steam loop that provides heat to some downtown buildings. The accusations, he said, have nothing to do with the work Veolia would perform for the city under the consulting contract.

"They're not going to buy the water department, they're not positioning themselves," to buy the department, Slay said. "These allegations are based on things that are not going to happen and can't happen. So that raises to me some questions about the basis of the allegations."

It was not clear from the meeting who would perform the additional investigation. Veolia was selected by a five-member committee following a bidding process.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.