The water systems in these 3 towns are broken. Now corporations stand to make millions

Source: Michael Sol Warren, NJ.com, November 5, 2017

… After decades of neglecting their water and sewer systems, three New Jersey towns now find themselves in similarly unenviable positions: On Election Day, voters in High Bridge, Long Hill and West Milford will choose whether to sell the systems to private corporations and give up local control — or to borrow large amounts of money to make the repairs themselves. And no one seems especially happy with either choice. … The three largest of the companies in New Jersey — New Jersey American Water, Suez Water New Jersey and Aqua New Jersey — are all subsidiaries of larger publicly traded corporations; American Water Works, the parent company of New Jersey American Water, is worth more than $13 billion. But privatization is especially widespread here. According to a Washington Post article published last December, 43 percent of New Jersey water is privatized, the third most in the nation.

… Yet not everyone thinks water privatization is such a great idea — and some say that a recently passed law, the Water Quality Accountability Act, is only compelling more municipalities to go private. The law demands that water systems around the state be updated. But the cost of those updates is often too much for smaller municipalities to bear. … Smith and other opponents of privatization point to broken promises by the companies and argue selling a system is a short term fix that could lead to bigger problems in the long run. For one thing, that rate stability that the companies tout doesn’t always pan out. … Another wrinkle to privatization plans: Many municipalities end up with a lot less money than their water systems are actually worth. … And whereas public utilities are accountable to the taxpayers, private corporations are accountable to their shareholders — which leads to situations like the one in Camden, which contracted its water and sewer systems to Suez in 1999. … The heated arguments in High Bridge last week centered around the questions of whether local residents have been given the full picture of the issue as they head into polling stations on Election Day. Jane Karp and other opponents of privatization are angry that High Bridge borough councillors requested bids without first finding out how much their water system is worth. …