STOCKTON, California- A $600 million, 20 year water privatization contract signed with much fanfare in February 2003 dissolved late Tuesday night at Stockton City Hall.

The contract between the City of Stockton and OMI-Thames Water for operation and maintenance of the city’s water, wastewater and stormwater utilities was the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi.

In 2003, the citizens of Stockton fought for the right to vote on whether water management services would be privatized, but the City Council decided on privatization before a vote took place.

The Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton, the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters of San Joaquin County sued on the grounds that the city did not abide by environmental requirements before signing the contract.

The city did no environmental review, despite evidence for potentially severe environmental consequences, relying instead on reviews of other projects undertaken by OMI-Thames Water.

“At a time when the Sacramento Delta water system is already polluted and highly fragile, OMI-Thames declared a ‘Run to Fail’ operating mode,” the Sierra Club said, “consciously deciding to neglect management problems resulting in harmful infrastructure neglect.”

San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Humphreys decided last November that the contract with OMI-Thames was illegal, would have “significant” environmental impacts, and must be canceled.

With its vote, the City Council agreed to withdraw its appeal of Judge Humphreys’ ruling and entered into a settlement agreement with Concerned Citizens that gives the city until March 1, 2008, to change from private to public water management.