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Robert Nunes, next mayor of Taunton, MA rejects private operations of drinking water plant

By FRANK MULLIGAN

Gazette City Editor

TAUNTON -- The only mayoral candidate on the ballot said the water treatment plant is off limits to privatization, despite his record of successful privatization efforts in his former administration.

Shoo-in Robert G. Nunes’ former administration oversaw successful efforts to have private firms manage both the landfill and the wastewater treatment plant.

The current operator of the wastewater plant -- USFilter -- has been touted as a management possibility for the water plant.

Joe Burgess, USFilter vice president, told the Gazette in June that his company was interested in negotiating a long-term contract with the city.

As with the wastewater plant, the city would continue to own the asset while the company operated and maintained it, Burgess said.

USFilter -- which operates 800 offices, plants and factories in North America -- can operate the plant more cheaply than the city and make a profit, he said.

Nunes said during a recent interview with the Gazette that he won’t consider such a move.

"I will not support privatizing the water treatment plant. It’s not on the table."

He said there are big differences between its privatization and that of the wastewater treatment plant.

"The wastewater plant was different," he said. "It was in violation," of environmental guidelines, he said.

It was liable to fines by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection.

"It would have cost the city millions of dollars to bring it into compliance." The private firm in that case took on that burden as part of its long-term contract with the city.

The water treatment plant is not operating under any burdens, he said.