By Mindy Fetterman
WOODBURY, N.J. — As city councilors here discussed the local water system recently, Summer Smith, a homeowner, rose to ask a question: “Can you explain in plain English what ‘emergent water conditions’ means? It sounds kind of alarming.”
David Trovato, the council president, acknowledged that any hint of a water quality emergency “would scare the hell out of me, too.” But there is no emergency in Woodbury.
New Jersey has designated Woodbury’s water system as “emergent” because it can’t meet the need for water at peak demand times. So this town of 10,000 across the Delaware River from Philadelphia is considering selling its water system to a private company.
Woodbury isn’t alone.
More than 2,000 municipalities have entered public-private partnerships for all or part of their water supply systems, according to the National Association of Water Companies, which represents private water companies like Veolia North America and American Water.
Partner municipalities include San Antonio; Akron, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. Miami-Dade County is considering partnerships for three water facilities, including one built in 1924. And Wichita, Kansas, is starting to study the issue.
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where old pipes leached out lead into water supplies, has raised new worries that cities aren’t keeping up with maintenance and improvements. Continue reading