September 03, 2007

UPDATE: UCWA Public Event

This event has been rescheduled for October 4th.
Union County citizens are invited to attend a screening of the PBS Point of view Documentary “Thirst” Fighting the Corporate Theft of our Water, on Thursday, October 4th, 7pm, at the Cranford Community Center, 220 Walnut Avenue, Cranford, NJ.

The free event is being sponsored by the Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) in response to the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA) entertaining the possibility of privatizing its Cogeneration Facility that is currently under construction. The RVSA serves the communities of Clark, Cranford, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, Rahway, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Westfield, Winfield Park (a customer to Clark) and Woodbridge.

Privatization of essential public services such as wastewater treatment may be contrary to the best interests of the ratepayers it serves. This fact has been very well documented in the documentary “Thirst” and the book “Thirst” by Alan Snitow & Deborah Kaufman. The main adverse impact to the ratepayers is increases in user fees which may be accompanied by a reduction in the quality of service. Based on the information presented in the documentary film and book “Thirst”, the viewer (or reader) may likely conclude that the main benefit of privatization is kickbacks and payoffs for the politically connected.

Preceding the documentary will be a presentation of the facts pertaining to the actions of the Authority regarding privatization to date including the Authority’s General Counsel (Weiner-Lesniak) and financial consultant (NW Financial Group) have already issued a preliminary facts report on privatization at RVSA. The report itself has cost tax-payers $40,000, and has indicated that the “procurement costs”, i.e. costs for work performed by the legal, financial and other consultants, will run about $500,000 regardless of whether or not the Authority enters a contract with a prospective vendor.

“Hosting events such as this one in Union County gives us the opportunity to educate the public and give them the necessary tools to participate in the legislative process thereby holding elected officials accountable at all levels of government” explained Tina Renna, President of the UCWA. “The decision to privatize the RVSA not only will affect our water rates but our drinking water as well. Citizens need to arm themselves with the facts and participate in this important decision.”

Space is limited. Reserve your seat early by calling (908) 709-0530, or email at

The Union County Watchdog Association believes that good government can only be achieved through a checks and balance system that includes the watchful eye of the people. They strive to make county government more transparent by gaining access to public records and being a public resource for information.

The negative impacts of privatization can be summarized as follows:

• Rate Increases. (When Rahway Water was privatized by United Water in 1999, the rates went up over 56% in the first year alone.

• Reduction in life expectancy of process equipment as a result of deferred maintenance. Privatization firms skimp on required maintenance in order to increase their profits. The result is a reduction in life expectancy and an accelerated schedule for capital replacement. Capital replacement is at the expense of the ratepayer not at the expense of the privatization firm.

• Privatization firms reduce costs by reducing staff, which usually has a negative impact on the quality of service.

• Privatization firms address certain operation and maintenance needs on a regional basis in the name of efficiency and reduced costs. This results in reduced response time and a reduction in quality of service. If you are experiencing a sewer back up or discolored potable water do you really want to wait for someone to respond from several counties away?

• Loss of direct control and operating philosophy. If you let a private, for profit firm run your essential utility, you are at their mercy to a very large degree.

• Additional charges for out of scope work. This includes equipment replacement costs. (A privatization firm will be more inclined to replace equipment than repair it. Repairs are at their expense, replacement is at your expense.) This is very significant in a poorly written contract. In Rahway, the City is liable for any maintenance amount in excess of $5,000.00. In addition, the Water Agreement between the City of Rahway and United Water provides for a 15% profit on top of their costs to deliver all water in excess of 5.109 million gallons per day. On their web site they claim that they are currently delivering 5.5 million gallons of treated water per day. This means that they are receiving 15% profit on 142.7 MG. They are currently treating 7.7% more water then the threshold amount. This additional fee is in addition to their fixed management fee. If the markup in their fixed management fee is 15% of their total costs, then the excess water that they are treating increases their profit by 7.7%.