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CAI Misrepresents Cause of Hoboken Main Breaks in Fundraising Plea

In its latest smear of the private water industry, Corporate Accountability International (CAI) boldly misrepresented the cause of recent water main breaks in Hoboken, New Jersey, while asking for money in a fundraising email blast.

The activist group wrote:

[Private water operations] can lead to a large-scale water crisis, as we saw in Hoboken, New Jersey last winter. Their water system is run by private water corporation SUEZ, and they experienced at least nine water main breaks over five months. Some occurred within just days of each other. One break in November resulted in thousands of residents living without water and heat for days, while another caused a sinkhole big enough to swallow a car.[1]

It is true that SUEZ is a private water company that provides expertise in partnership with the Hoboken government to repair and maintain the water system. However, CAI’s implication that SUEZ is causing the water main breaks is completely inaccurate. As usual, the activist version of events leaves out important, well-documented facts.

As multiple news outlets have pointed out[2], Hoboken’s water infrastructure is very, very old. According to SUEZ, 60% of the water system was installed before 1920, with about 25% put in before 1900. A system of this age is by nature very susceptible to main breaks.

SUEZ’s contract with Hoboken calls for the company to spend $300,000 a year on the water system. This amount of investment is barely enough to cover repairs and is certainly not enough for the city to undertake the large-scale main replacement projects that are necessary to avoid recurring breaks. Over the 20-plus year relationship between SUEZ and Hoboken, the company has operated by the terms of the agreement, often contributing more than required to the water main repair fund.[3]

The situation in Hoboken does not illustrate a failure of the private water industry, but it does reflect a larger problem across the nation – aging water infrastructure is leading to main breaks and leaks, highlighting the need for large-scale reinvestment.

SUEZ has been working directly with Hoboken on a large-scale capital improvement plan to address the aging infrastructure issues. We applaud Hoboken for taking action – the City Council approved a $5 million replacement of water lines under Washington Street, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, as part of a redesign plan in early 2016.[4]

CAI, meanwhile, continues to tell just part of the story in a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and smear the private water industry.


[1] Corporate Accountability International, “Keep corporations out of our water systems” 30 August 2016.
[2] NJ.com, “Water main break in Hoboken causes road closures, detours” 17 August 2016; NJ.com, “Officials say Hoboken water main break highlights need for overhaul” 14 March 2016; Hudson County View, “UPDATED: After a week of inconveniences, Hoboken sustains another water main break” 30 November 2015; The Wall Street Journal, “Large Water Main Breaks in Hoboken, N.J.” 22 November 2015.
[3] Staten Island Advance, “Waterlogged Hoboken” 6 April 2013.
[4] NJ.com, “Officials say Hoboken water main break highlights need for overhaul” 14 March 2016.
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