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Edison Residents: Beware of Food & Water Watch Scare Tactics

The township of Edison, New Jersey, has made water and sewer infrastructure a top priority with the town’s Mayor, Thomas Lankey, looking at all options to address Edison’s infrastructure challenges. Mayor Lankey has endorsed a comprehensive plan: a 40-year, $811.3 million public-private partnership with Edison Environmental Partners, a joint venture between SUEZ North
America and KKR.

The agreement will enable Edison to maintain public ownership of its water and sewer systems, pay off existing utility debt, increase reserves, and maintain stable rates over the long term – all while making significant and much-needed capital improvements to the infrastructure. Over the 40-year deal, SUEZ will operate the infrastructure and execute $481 million in capital improvements, including $100 million that will be invested within the first seven years of the contract.

However, without regard for what is best for Edison and its residents, Food & Water Watch (FWW) opposes the plan because it involves the private sector even though the town would retain ownership of the water system. Here are more facts you won’t hear from FWW:

  • Rates will support necessary investment. The deal being considered is specifically designed to keep rates stable for the long-term. In the first seven years of the contract, the average monthly non-senior residential water bill will increase about $3.30 per month, and the average monthly non-senior residential sewer bill will increase about $1.90 per month. The revenue will fund $851 million in total investment in Edison over 40 years, including $481 million in capital improvements to infrastructure – $100 million of which will occur in the first seven years of the contract.
  • Rate will increase at a rate lower than the national average. Over the term of the agreement, rate adjustments are estimated to be between 3.5%- 4.9% per year. Data shows that the national average rate increase for public and private systems in the U.S. is 6%, which places the planned adjustments for Edison well below the national average.
  • The system will be operated to the highest standard. The proposed agreement requires SUEZ to manage and operate the township’s water and sewer systems in accordance with best practices and technical standards that go above and beyond what is currently required under township operation.
  • Jobs will be protected. The proposed agreement explicitly provides for current staff to work for SUEZ in a comparable position or continue working for Edison in the Department of Public Works.

FWW has made widely unsubstantiated and blatantly false claims about rates, jobs and local control, just as they have done in other cities like Baltimore, all without offering any viable alternative solutions. The group does not come to Edison offering real solutions that are in the best interest of Edison residents. Instead, they rely on scare tactics and false narratives to advance an ideological opposition to private sector involvement in water systems.

In the end, it is Edison residents that will lose if FWW is successful.

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