Company accused of Kingwood sewage leak being considered to operate Houston drinking water

The city of Houston is considering contracting with the company accused of a Kingwood sewage leak to operate one of its drinking water plants. 

Houston Police said Inframark, the company who operates the Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Plant, remains under criminal investigation. 

BACKGROUND: Houston area wastewater treatment plant under investigation by police, Texas officials

In January, residents began complaining of a foul sewage stench in the air. The odor lasted several days and prompted an investigation.

The following month, Houston police searched the premises and seized documents. Inframark is now accused of falsifying compliance samples and releasing inadequately treated sewage.

Britt Owens' home is within eyeshot of the Kingwood Wastewater Plant. He said the foul odor has existed intermittently for years. 

"I've smelt it all the years I've lived here. And that’s been since 1999. All through the fall and winter months is when we notice it most here on this street," Owens said. 

Inframark is now in consideration to contract with the city of Houston and operate the Southeast Water Purification Plant. The plant treats and provides approximately 200 million gallons of drinking water per day.   

"It concerns me that if they can't control this; I mean this is small as opposed to what they’re going into. If they can't control this, what are they going to do with a larger facility?" said Kingwood resident, Loweta Jorgensen.

"If this is the company that’s taking care of the water sewer treatment plant, and they’re going to be providing the water in this neighborhood and the surrounding areas, they’d have to be on top of these people watching what they’re doing. Because if they can’t handle the sewerage, I’m not sure they’d be the ones I’d want handling my water," Owens said. 

Houston Public Works found the company was operating at substandard levels when the sewage leak happened.

Inframark said the Kingwood facility is now in compliance but declined to comment on other matters due to the ongoing criminal investigation. 

In a statement, Houston Public Works said, "Houston Public Works believes that the City operating its facilities best serves the public. However, the existing agreement between the City and its partners in the Southeast Water Purification Plant allows for the exploration of outside vendors. While the City objected to using an outside vendor to operate this plant, the City’s partners voted to move forward with the bidding process. This is still an active procurement, and no other details can be provided at this time."