- Barrie Barber Staff Writer
For the first time, Wright-Patterson has awarded contracts to manage its water and sewer systems and natural gas distribution, base officials said.
The Air Force awarded a $490 million, 50-year contract to New Jersey-based American Water Operations and Maintenance Inc. to manage the base’s water distribution and waste water collection in a competition with four finalists.
The utility transition was expected in May.
Separately, the Air Force awarded a $14 million, 50-year contract to Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio to maintain the natural gas infrastructure on the sprawling base, according to Wright-Patterson. Vectren was one of two bidders.
The names of bidders were not disclosed.
The Air Force has pushed to privatize utility contracts in recent years.
Several years ago, Wright-Patterson picked Dayton Power & Light Co. in a 50-year deal to provide power to the installation.
According to past figures provided by Wright-Patterson, the base spends $3 million a month on utility costs, and DP&L accounts for about half of the dollars spent, he said.
Beyond utilities, Wright-Patterson has opted to privatize other areas once maintained by the government such as housing, said Col. Bradley McDonald, Wright-Patterson installation commander.
“Not only does (privatization) allow us to focus on our core mission, it allows us to also to free up resources in the near term as we collaborate with others to help outsource that particular item,” he said.
The Air Force has privatized 66 water, waste water, electric and natural gas utility systems, according to Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover.
“By divesting the Air Force of these utilities, commanders can focus on operations and core defense missions and functions, rather than repairs and upgrades to utility systems,” she said in an email.
In June, the Air Force installed a $2.7 million groundwater treatment system to reopen two tainted drinking water wells after a more than year-long shutdown.
The treatment uses charcoal filters to strip contamination out of groundwater. Two production wells in Area A have exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health advisory limits of 70 parts per trillion for lifetime exposure to perfluooctanoic acid, or PFOA, and perfluoroctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, results show. The contaminants typically have been found in firefighting foam sprayed at Wright-Patterson, officials have said.
In June, drinking water samples pumped out of two tainted wells showed the treated water had nearly “non-detectable” indicators of contamination that has been found in fire fighting foam, a Wright-Patterson environmental official has said.
“They will continue using groundwater on the base,” Kevin Hass, a Wright-Patterson water purveyor employee said. “There will be no changes there.”
The Air Force, however, will keep responsibility for the groundwater before it reaches the distribution system, according to John Heckart, a utility privatization program manager at Wright-Patterson.
“The Air Force will deal with groundwater issues as that is not part of the conveyance under this contract,” he said.
However, the contractor, as the new water purveyor will be “accountable for all regulatory guidance,” Vanover said in an email.
Wright-Patterson is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with an estimated 27,000 civilian employees and military personnel.