Victor Mercado, vice president of Thames Water North America, tapped as water chief for Detroit --  highest-ranking Hispanic Detroit City Official


June 13, 2002


BY M.L. ELRICK
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Victor Mercado became the highest-ranking Hispanic city official in Detroit history Wednesday when Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick named him director of the Water and Sewerage Department.

Mercado will oversee an agency with an annual budget of more than $1 billion and that provides drinking water and cleans wastewater for most of southeastern Michigan. Kilpatrick said Mercado brings more than 25 years' experience to the job.

Mercado is vice president of Thames Water North America and president and general manager of Thames Water Puerto Rico. Thames is a private company that provides water to cities throughout the world.

Kilpatrick and U.S. District Judge John Feikens, who oversees the Water and Sewerage Department under a federal consent decree, praised Mercado's credentials.

He is a former vice president and general manager of United Water of Delaware and president of United Water Bethel, Pa., and United Water Virginia, which also are private water utilities. He also served as director of operations for a water utility in Jamaica, N.Y. He has a bachelor of science degree in economics and industrial management from the City University of New York.

Citing Mercado's upbringing in the Bronx, N.Y., Kilpatrick said, "That was a factor in getting him here. We think he's tough enough for the City of Detroit."

He called Mercado an experienced troubleshooter.

Feikens has been involved in the city's water and sewage business for more than 20 years because of sewage violations that ended up in court. He said Wednesday that the city had been discharging wastewater into the Detroit River that was not clean enough to meet federal standards. The city's drinking water quality has always been good, Feikens said.
The Water and Sewerage Department has been in compliance with Clean Water Act standards for the last 18 months, Kilpatrick said.

Feikens estimated that it will take up to $15 billion to repair and upgrade the city's aging system. He predicted that one of Mercado's first challenges will be setting a regional rate structure for water users that will spread the cost of paying for the repairs.

Mercado said he has to get to know the city's system as well as its employees before outlining his goals. Said Feikens: "What his real goal is, is to get me out of this."

The judge did not say when he expected to end his oversight.

Contact M.L. ELRICK at 313-223-3327 or elrick@freepress.com.