Joseph P. Ganim

Best Practice Recognition
The City of Bridgeport and USFilter
Privatization of Wastewater Treatment

For several years, the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA), a semi-independent government affiliate, operated Bridgeport’s wastewater treatment systems. While the system was undergoing upgrades to increase capacity as required by a consent decree, effluent excursions continued to impact the ecological balance of the Long Island Sound and excessive operating costs were driving sewer rates up.

As a resolution to these problems, Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim set up a committee to explore privatization. Despite less than favorable response from the WPCA and its union employees, in April of 1997 USFilter—through its subsidiary Professional Services Group (PSG)—assumed responsibility for the city’s two sludge plants and over 300 miles of collection systems. Under the terms of the contract, PSG was required to maintain employment for all WPCA employees except through natural attrition; pass cost savings on to citizens through reduced sewer rates; and guarantee environmental compliance to protect the integrity of the Long Island Sound.

PSG and Bridgeport achieved the first of its objectives by working closely with five separate labor unions during the transition to private sector management. Those employees of the collection system who chose to remain in city employment were allowed to exercise their bumping rights and move into other areas of city government. PSG not only maintained all other current staff but significantly increased efficiency with additional training. Several employees attained Grade I operator certification for the first time. As a result, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection site visits noticeably decreased. In terms of cost savings, privatization saved an estimated 20% over projected costs. True to its word, PSG passed on the savings to the consumer, with a 2%-5% real decrease in sewer rates.

The partnership has been so satisfactory that Bridgeport and PSG recently agreed to an 18-year contract extension. Mayor Ganim and PSG expect $20 million in cost savings over the life of the contract. PSG has already made a $6 million payment up front to further reduce and stabilize long-term sewer rates. This will translate into a $50 decrease in the average homeowner’s sewer bill per quarter. Moreover, for the economy of Bridgeport and its neighbors, the preservation of the Sound’s water quality will mean a boon for the tourist and fishing industry.

PSG, as a contributing community partner, supports numerous charity events, plant tours, scholarships and public area maintenance. It shares equipment and personnel with the other city departments, and when Bridgeport’s famous Barnum Festival rolls around, the City knows it can depend on PSG for both monetary and personnel support.

For more information, please contact:

Mike Stark
Executive Vice President & General Manager
USFilter Operating Services
14950 Heathrow Forest Parkway, Suite 200
Houston, TX 77032
Telephone: (281) 985-5406
Fax: (281) 985-5630

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