Houston terminating contract amid Kingwood wastewater treatment facility criminal investigation

City ending contract with Inframark, but wants neighborhood to know ‘Kingwood’s drinking water remains safe.’

Houston Police Department executes search warrants at city’s water treatment facility

HOUSTON – Houston announced Wednesday that it is terminating its contract with the company Inframark amid a criminal investigation into operations at Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Facility.

The contract termination is effective next Friday, March 31.

Houston Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Martin said via a news release that “Kingwood’s drinking water remains safe.”

“Over the past two months, it became apparent that Inframark is in breach of its contract with the City of Houston to run the Greater North East Houston Service Area system, which includes the Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Facility,” The city said in its news release. “Mayor Pro Tem Martin continues to appreciate the swift action and response of Houston Public Works. He looks forward to the conclusion of the ongoing criminal investigation.”

The city’s news release added that it has determined that it can best serve Kingwood residents by having Houston Public Works operate its water treatment facilities in Kingwood, “just as Houston Public Works safely and efficiently operates water treatment facilities every day throughout the City of Houston”

“The city looks forward to assisting Inframark to facilitate a smooth transition over to the city-led management of the Greater North East Houston Service Area,” the news release reads.

“We are committed to providing the highest quality water services to Houstonians and believe this is the best path forward for Houston water treatment operations,” Houston Public Works director Carol Haddock is quoted as saying in the news release.

The news comes months after the Houston Police Department showed up on the grounds of the Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Plant in February with a search warrant and area residents were excited.

“I’m happy to see it,” Jodi Ellis, who lives behind the facility, said at that time.

Investigators were on site looking for evidence of alleged wrongdoing tied to sample testing and documents, according to Martin’s office.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was also asking questions at the time, according to Martin.

While some residents pointed to “really bad smells” since January, others pointed to what they visually noticed around the facility, such as brown water coming out of the facility.

“Infarmark has always done a good job for us. They really have been a good partner for the city. I’m extremely disappointed in how this occurred, and where we are today,” Martin said at the time.

Inframark released the following statement regarding the contract termination:

“Over the last five years, since Hurricane Harvey, we have repeatedly asked the City of Houston to address the serious deficiencies in the condition of the equipment at the Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Facility, and until recently the city has slow-walked every request. The fact that the city has moved to terminate us as long overdue upgrades are finally being made is both a surprise and a disappointment.

With respect to allegations of criminal wrongdoing, we are nearing the completion of an internal investigation that has found no evidence of any illegal activity on the part of any Inframark employees.”

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About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.