Kiger: Veolia's response to DEQ shows total neglect

UPDATE: This column now includes Veolia's response to DEQ. Find it attached below.


After receiving and reviewing Veolia's responses to DEQ on the seven Notices of Violation (NOV) that were issued, which also created 27 additional violations of state administrative rules connected, I see a company responding in agreement to fix everything listed that Veolia failed to maintain or operate according to state law that helped cause the City of Heavener to be in Violation.

Veolia's response to the DEQ is on the attached PDF.

As this is the beginning of great news for the first time in 25 years for the residents and businesses of Heavener with corrections of operations being made and new equipment being installed, it’s my opinion that Veolia's responses shows significant incompetence and a lack of care about their customers in the terrible way they've maintained this water plant! But this is also the same attitude I've seen from some city leaders that I hope will change now that violations have been issued and responses for corrections are being made with specific timelines. Regardless, this will cost the city of Heavener a great deal of money to make these repairs and corrections.

Veolia’s statement to DEQ on when they operated the water plant says, "As you know, Veolia historically operated the Heavener public water supply facility until 2015. From 2015 to 2018 the facility was operated directly by the Heavener Utility Authority. In 2018 Veolia resumed operations of the facility."

To me, this is Veolia trying to convince DEQ that the city is to blame. To this, I agree that they are a great deal of the problem and should share the blame. But Veolia failed to mention that when they ended their operations with the city in 2015, Veolia had run the water treatment plant for approximately 20 years prior. So Veolia is to blame for a large part of the overall problem for the past 25 years.

For the past 25 years, Veolia has also convinced city leaders that water distribution pipes were the cause of black water. DEQ cleared this up through NOVs and concluded that a lack of maintenance and operations at the water plant created black water that entered the homes of residents. In addition, potable water produced also showed little to no chlorine in the water and chemicals not being measured properly causing the water to be more corrosive and damaging to water distribution pipes. This is evidence that bad water produced has actually helped to destroy the piping system in Heavener through evidence of the large number of breaks this year alone.

The next steps now will be for DEQ to review Veolia's responses to see if they agree with the corrections or timelines. While these improvements are being made, they are the right steps needed in helping the city receive cleaner water. The people and businesses of Heavener have asked for and deserve this.

While all of this is going on I will be meeting with the director of the Oklahoma Health Department as well as with the state's attorney general. I want to be assured that the failure of Veolia and the city of Heavener has not done harm or created a threat to the public's health. I also want to confirm if numbers for turbidity can be confirmed as corrected, or if numbers reported show evidence of falsification. If falsification of turbidity numbers have been submitted by Veolia to DEQ, I will pursue the state to take appropriate action.

As I told city leaders at their monthly meeting two weeks ago, I'm not here to make friends with city leaders. I am here on behalf of the residents and businesses in Heavener that also live in House District 3. One way or another, the water will get cleaned up and the people will win a great victory from the help of DEQ staying on top of this terrible situation.

 


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Heavener, OK 74937
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