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NAWC Responds to Flawed Rate Claims in Pittsburgh

A letter to the editor by Marybeth Leongini, Director of Communications for the National Association of Water Companies, was included in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette on April 8. Leongini responded to a recent op-ed in which the mayor’s blue-ribbon panel cited a flawed Food & Water Watch rate comparison report as a reason to not consider private water options to address the city’s serious infrastructure challenges. Leongini points out that the “widely debunked, fundamentally flawed” report does not account for the many factors that influence water rates, including investment levels, and that using scare tactics is a “disservice to Pittsburgh residents.”

Read the full piece below:

The recent Forum piece by the mayor’s blue-ribbon panel (March 11, “Privatization Is Not the Answer for PWSA”) was correct in its assessment that Pittsburgh’s dire water infrastructure situation has led to a lack of public trust. The piece also correctly notes that private water companies bring efficiency and flexibility to the cities they serve.

However, the panel’s reliance on a flawed Food & Water Watch rate comparison report is disappointing. Time and time again, experts warn against comparing the rates of various water systems. There are dozens of factors that influence water rates, including investment levels, making it nearly impossible to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of rates between systems. Furthermore, blindly celebrating low rates is unwise — a city that properly invests in its water infrastructure is going to have higher rates than a city that lets its system deteriorate. Indeed, a lack of investment is exactly what got the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority into this mess in the first place.

Pittsburgh certainly has some major decisions to make in order to ensure its residents can count on safe and reliable water service for years to come. But taking proven, successful options off the table based on activist scare tactics and a widely debunked, fundamentally flawed rate report is unwise and a disservice to Pittsburgh’s residents.

MARYBETH LEONGINI
Director of Communications
National Association of Water Companies
Washington, D.C.

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