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JBLM moves to privatize water

The nation’s largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company takes over in October

Alex Hartman, a wastewater treatment plant operator with American Water, checks out the equipment inside the Joint Base Lewis-McChord wastewater treatment plant Sept. 24. Photo credit: Cathy Hamilton-Wissmer, JBLM Public Works

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - On Oct. 1, American Water, the nation's largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company, will assume operations of Joint Base Lewis-McChord's water and wastewater systems.

The company was awarded a 50-year contract in September 2020, valued at $771 million, to privatize the water and wastewater utilities at JBLM.

The company has a military service branch, American Water Military Services LLC, dedicated to water and wastewater systems on U.S. military installations. With the addition of JBLM, American Water will cover 17 military bases across the country.

The company will provide water treatment, storage and distribution across JBLM to include approximately 1.67 million linear feet of water pipe, 1,957 hydrants, 9,138 valves, 21 wells and 28 tanks.

The wastewater collection system includes a wastewater treatment plant with approximately 1.2 million linear feet of pipe, 3,120 manholes and 99 lift stations. JBLM will keep ownership of the water and land, leaving American Water responsible for treating and transporting the water.

"There are a few independent water systems that will not be affected," said Douglas Stotler, a project manager with the Engineering Services Division, JBLM Directorate of Public Works, and the contracting officer's representative for the American Water contract. "A few small areas on JBLM have septic systems, and we will be maintaining those and the irrigation systems."

Privatization will benefit JBLM for many reasons, according to Stotler; American Water can handle several projects - reducing the workload for DPW and allowing the directorate to address other infrastructure plans.

The company will be able to bring the systems up to federal and state code, making the system more reliable, he said. The contract will also reduce the upkeep for DPW, Stotler said, because American Water will be responsible for maintaining and operating the system.

Residents and employees on JBLM should not be affected by the privatization.

"If anything, more reliability will be the only difference," Stotler said.

If an issue does arise, customers can call DPW at 253-967-3131. To learn more about the federal government's Utilities Privatization program, click here.

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