A bill that would allow New Jersey municipalities to sell their public water utilities to private, for-profit corporations without putting the measure to voters is awaiting Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.
Until now, any municipality in New Jersey that sought to sell off its water system to a private bidder had to hold a public vote. But a bill passed with bipartisan support by the state’s Senate last week would allow municipalities with aging and deteriorating water systems to put their systems up for sale without holding a referendum.
While supporters of the bill say privatizing water systems could save municipalities money, it allows companies to factor the purchase price of the systems into the rates they charge customers, meaning taxpayers could ultimately be on the hook for the sale of their water systems.Many New Jersey municipalities have turned to privatization as a way to get quick cash infusions for their deteriorating water systems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the state would need $41 billion over the next 20 years to repair its water, stormwater and wastewater systems.
Andrew Hendry, the president of the New Jersey Utilities Commission. He pointed out that private water systems in the state account for only 2 percent of state Safe Drinking Water Act violations, which he said proves privatization is a responsible way forward for New Jersey towns.