Public reacts negatively to potential sale of sewer system
Public reaction at a Lower Bucks County hearing on the potential sale of a major regional sewer system was negative.
A group of about 70 residents packed a meeting room on the Newtown Township campus of Bucks County Community College on Tuesday to give their thoughts on the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority’s controversial exploration of a 1.1 sale. billion dollars from the sewer system to the for-profit company Aqua Pennsylvania.
Aqua had slides presenting the case and experts to speak with the residents. The Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority held a question-and-answer period to get feedback from residents.
Every person who spoke raised concerns or opposed the sale of public authority to a for-profit company.
Aqua, owned by Essential Utilities,’s offer to sell the largest part – the sanitary sewer system – under public authority is worth $1.1 billion. Once the debt is paid off, the Bucks County government would receive approximately $1 billion in benefits.
The agreement provides for the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority to retain ownership of the water system, but sell the sewer system that serves approximately 75,000 retail and wholesale customers across the county to Aqua Pennsylvania.
Benjamin Jones, CEO of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority, called the deal a good move for the authority and ratepayers, but many city and utility advocates called the sale a bad move for ratepayers.
The Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority provides retail or wholesale sewer service, meaning it works with another system to deal with waste, to customers in all or part of Bristol Borough, Bristol Township Falls Township, Hulmeville Borough, Langhorne Borough, Langhorne Manor Borough, Township of Middletown and Borough of Penndel. The Bristol Borough system was recently purchased by the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority for $50 million.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, which followed a similar meeting in Upper Bucks County, residents questioned why the authority would be sold to a for-profit corporation, which would raise rates.
“Nobody wants that in our community,” said Middletown Township resident Perry Strauss.
Strauss said the authority had done a good job and should not sell its sewage system.
Jones said the authority’s debt will be paid off in coming years, but questions about new debt and rising costs make rate stability uncertain. A court ruling means the authority cannot fix lateral sewer line problems on private property, but Aqua would be able to do so, saving residents money in utility bills. plumbing.
Another resident asked what is stopping the authority from selling their water system to Aqua or another company in the coming years.
Jones responded by saying there were no plans to sell the water system.
A Warrington Township resident complained that the authority had not given enough notice for the meetings, while others complained that the meeting was being held during a busy holiday week.
On Wednesday, Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority Chairman John Cordisco announced that more comments would be sought and that discussions on the proposal would take place after Labor Day to ensure that all opinions are heard.
A Bensalem township man said a potential rate stabilization fund, which authority officials say could be created using some of the proceeds from the sale, would subsidize Aqua after the sale.
Jones said that would help residents keep rates lower for up to 10 years.
Middletown Township resident Ray Post said he was sure Aqua was a good company, but their rates are higher than those charged by the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority. He was against the sale.
Another Middletown Township resident spoke up and said the sale would only result in price increases for customers if Aqua took over. As proof, he showed his sewer bill for his vacation home in the Poconos and it went from $66 a month under local authority to $133 a month under Aqua in just two years.
Marc Lucca, president of Aqua Pennsylvania, explained that the rate was so high for this client’s residence in the Pocconos because that system needed major work, while the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority’s system is in better shape. state.
Currently, Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority sewer customers pay $48.18 for an average of 4,167 gallons. Aqua Pennsylvania recently pushed a plan to raise sewer rates for several cities it serves, with no rate per 4,000 gallons used lower than the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority rate and the highest being 138, $50 for 4,000 gallons used, according to Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Jones said a recent analysis by the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority showed that in 10 years, Aqua Pennsylvania’s rate is expected to be only $20 more than the authority’s predicted rate.
John McLaren, a resident of Northampton Township, said he saw no reason for a well-run authority to sell to a for-profit company which would raise rates. He said he sees a potential sale of authority as getting rid of a long-term investment and strategic taxpayer-owned asset.
Since the sale proposal went public, city officials and ratepayers have expressed dissatisfaction with the plan, noting the increased prices and shift from a public authority to a for-profit enterprise.
The groups Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts (NOPE) and Food and Water Action have spoken to residents and obtained their contact details as they step up their efforts to fight the sale of the sewage system.
Cordisco, the chairman of the board, started the Lower Bucks County meeting but left before the question-and-answer period, upsetting some who came out to oppose the sale. An authority official said Cordisco, the former county Democratic committee leader, was at the Upper Bucks County meeting in the morning.
Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority board members Dennis Cowley and Pat Poprik, who leads the county’s Republican party, attended the event. Council members George Hutt and Brian Allen were not at the Lower Bucks County meeting.
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