The city of Houston is terminating its contract with Inframark, the third-party contractor that operates the Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Plant, officials with Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin’s office announced in a March 22 news release.

The decision to terminate the city’s five-year $74 million contract with Inframark is coming more than a month after Houston Police Department officials executed a search warrant at the Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Plant on Feb. 17. HPD officials alleged in the search warrant affidavit the contractor doctored samples and records to suggest the plant had adequately treated sewage before releasing it into a waterway that feeds into one of the city’s main sources of drinking water.

Inframark officials released the following statement to Community Impact via a March 22 email: “Over the last five years since Hurricane Harvey, we have repeatedly asked the city of Houston to address the serious deficiencies in the condition of the equipment at the Kingwood Central Wastewater Treatment Facility, and until recently the city has slow-walked every request. The fact that the city has moved to terminate us as long overdue upgrades are finally being made is both a surprise and a disappointment. With respect to allegations of criminal wrongdoing, we are nearing completion of an internal investigation that has found no evidence of any illegal activity on the part of any Inframark employees.”

City officials said the Houston Public Works Department will take over running the plant as well as four additional plants in Kingwood currently operated by Inframark, effective March 31. Officials have maintained the city’s drinking water has and will continue to be safe to consume.

“We are committed to providing the highest-quality water services to Houstonians and believe this is the best path forward for Houston water treatment operations,” Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock said in a statement.

According to a Feb. 17 news release issued by Martin’s office, the issue first arose in January after city officials received several reports of foul odors emanating from the plant.

While addressing the issue, officials said the Houston Public Works Department discovered irregularities in both plant operations and corresponding regulatory compliance documents that were then turned over to HPD’s Environmental Crimes Unit and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for investigation.

The warrant cites several statutes that may have been violated, including a Texas Water Code statute deeming it illegal to discharge pollutants and a separate felony statute deeming it illegal to discharge pollutants knowingly or intentionally. It also cites the Texas Penal Code stating it is illegal to tamper with government records.