During the pandemic, frustration over Bayonne’s water rates has begun to boil over, drawing scrutiny to the city’s water contract: an unusual deal with a private equity firm and water company Suez.
Two online petitions seeking to lower the city’s water prices, one of which is titled “Suez is drowning us!!!!!” have garnered hundreds of signatures since their creation earlier this year.
Jodi Casais, a Bayonne school board trustee and the petitions’ creator, said her water bills had risen by roughly $300 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Lisa Lilick and Carol Smith struggled to get fellow Conshohocken residents to pay attention to their campaign opposing the sale of the borough’s sewer system. Who wants to think about boring wastewater when there’s a pandemic going on?
Lilick said her online posts about sewer rates suddenly found an audience. A Facebook page was launched, local bloggers took note, a petition was organized, and yard signs went up. Scores of angry residents tuned in to borough Zoom meetings, worried that their elected officials were trying to pull a fast one.
Read the full article at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Fayetteville Public Works Commission provides electricity, sewer and water for about 114,000 customers. As the name implies, it is a publicly owned utility.
But recently, it’s caught the eye of a private investment firm, which has submitted a proposal to help manage the utility.
Joyce Ship-Freeman is fearful of big hikes in water and sewer rates if Edison’s mayor and council lease the public utilities to a private company, Suez North America.
“They say in the event of a catastrophe that can go as high up as 10%. So therefore the people that are making it on a fixed income, like I am, cannot afford any higher rates,” she said.
The deal would call for Edison leasing control and management of its sewer system and part of its drinking water system to Suez, who would borrow $811 million from the Wall Street equity firm KKR for 11% interest for 40 years and Edison getting a concession or down payment of $105 million.
Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton this week blasted a state Senate bill backed by Kentucky American Water and other utility companies as “bad for Lexington” and “bad for our economy.”
Senate Bill 163 would allow investor-owned water and sewage companies such as Kentucky American Water to use a different type of calculation to value a water system it wants to acquire. Critics say the change would lead to higher purchase prices, which the water company would then pass on to customers in the form of higher rates.
The question of whether to privatize water systems was on the ballot of three New Jersey towns this month.
“On Election Day, two small communities — Long Hill and High Bridge — posted victories for public water and sewers in the state of New Jersey, one of the most privatized states in the country,” reported Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group that favors public water.
“In Long Hill and High Bridge, the water and sewer systems need costly repairs to improve and maintain safe and healthy water. NJ American Water waged a months-long marketing campaign to promote their takeover in Long Hill, an approach that had the backing of the township council,” the report said.