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A security firm hired in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to protect Metro Detroit's drinking-water reservoirs was fired Tuesday, after one of its guards was arrested for drunken driving 17 miles from his nearest assigned reservoir.
Detroit water department chief Victor Mercado ended a $3.7 million contract with the security firm, JOWA Associates, just hours after the incident at 10:50 p.m. Monday. The worker's shift would have ended 10 minutes later.
"The security of the system is of the utmost importance," Mercado said. "We will not tolerate anything that might jeopardize that."
The Detroit water system serves 4 million people in 126 southeast Michigan cities.
Another company will be hired immediately to maintain security at 21 major drinking water reservoirs across the region, Mercado said.
The shake-up comes one month after Mercado pledged to improve JOWA's performance in response to reports in The Detroit News that JOWA guards were not properly patrolling reservoirs, leaving them vulnerable to sabotage. The JOWA problems underscore longstanding gaps in the region's drinking-water security, including broken alarms and fences around reservoirs.
JOWA Chief Executive Brenda Gissendanner said late Tuesday she was shocked to learn of the contract termination and planned to protest after consultation with her attorney.