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Contract Operations (ConOps) is an option for water and wastewater treatment facilities, among other vital public functions. It is not a panacea, and there are occasions when it is not the most appropriate approach. But, when embarked on for the right combination of reasons, private operation and management (O&M) of a public facility can deliver value to the taxpayer or ratepayer, rewarding careers to the staff, and profitable business to the O&M firm.

You would not think this from public discussions of ConOps, many of which generate more heat than light. A mass-circulation tabloid in New England recently applauded grass-roots opposition to ConOps, taking the position that it is always a bad idea. The complexities of this form of privatization elude some observers, causing them to overlook or misinterpret key facts. But the experience of hundreds of communities nationwide, over more than three decades, proves that, in the right situation, ConOps works. Indeed, it can be the most cost-effective solution – and the solution most protective of the environment – if it is implemented for the right reasons by the right engineering and operations firm. In these cases, it can truly be a public-private partnership in which both partners gain.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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