Veolia, a French company accused of exposing residents of Flint, Michigan, in the United States, to dangerous levels of Lead chemical, could be handed the job of supplying drinking water to Lagos, Africa’s most populous city.

According to a BuzzFeed report, “Veolia, which is the world’s largest water company, is under investigation in at least three different countries, including in a complaint filed by the state of Michigan, for its role in overlooking contaminants in Flint’s pipes and making the situation worse”.

Genesis of the Flint water crisis

In 2014, the city of Flint--which had been depending on the Lake Huron from the Detroit Water Department for its water for about 50 years--made the switch to the Flint River as a water source.

Soon after the switch, CNN reports, residents said the water started to look, smell and taste funny.

When scientists at Virginia Tech tested tap water from Walters' home, they found that the lead level was as high as 13,200 ppb.

Water contaminated with 5,000 ppb of lead is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as hazardous waste and detrimental to health.

Dangers of lead consumption

Lead consumption can result in cancer, heart, nerve and kidney problems.

According to CNN, “Health effects of lead exposure in children include impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, hearing problems and delayed puberty".

Veolia is on a shortlist of companies coming to Lagos

BuzzFeed writes that Veolia is among a shortlist of three companies being considered for the flagship Adiyan II contract in Lagos, which would hand over almost two-thirds of the city’s water system to the winning bidder.

Other companies on the shortlist for the Lagos water project are Spanish multinational giant Abengoa, which was “behind a disastrous privatization attempt in Bolivia that sparked months of protests before being scrapped”, and Dubai-based Metito, which “has links via its largest shareholder, Mitsubishi, to investments in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens Indigenous communities in the United States”.

An activist called Nayyirah Shariff, told Buzzfeed that Veolia has “a history of poisoning black communities in the US, and they should not be poisoning the largest African city on the continent.

Shariff was quoted as being “shocked and extremely angry [to learn about the potential Lagos deal] because Veolia — I feel Veolia is a snake, and they slithered over to

Michigan alleges that Veolia deliberately falsified reports about the quality of the drinking water, allowing lead to leach into drinking water pipes.

Shariff adds that if Veolia eventually gets the contract to supply water to Lagos, ordinary citizens would find it difficult filing complaints against them because the company is based in faraway France.

“It’s very difficult if you have a grievance against how these transnational corporations are operating, because you can’t go to France — it’s physically impossible for an ordinary resident to travel to file grievance against a company that only cares about profit.

“I know with the population of Lagos, it’s just going to have a larger inverse impact on when Veolia fucks up — because it’s going to happen. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when, and how soon are you able to find out when they fuck up”, Shariff said.

Secrecy of contract and bidding process

At the moment, the contract award process is shrouded in secrecy. Pulse did try to speak to an official of the Lagos Water Corporation (LWC) for this story, but that official immediately hung up the phone as soon as she knew who she was speaking with.

An email sent to Veolia had also not been replied at the time of filing this story. Pulse will continue to update readers as soon as more information on the Lagos water project becomes readily available.

Lagos boasts a population of over 20 million people, a chunk of whom rely on privately owned boreholes and tanks for domestic water supply. Public water in Lagosis often unreliable and filthy at best.