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Hard Lessons Learned in Edison, New Jersey As Water Rates Skyrocket

For a moment, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to 2019 when the activist group Food & Water Watch pulled out all the stops to block Edison, New Jersey from considering private water solutions to address the city’s water infrastructure needs.

After Food & Water Watch waged an aggressive public misinformation campaign, the township decided not to enter into a contract operations agreement with a water company. That proposed contract would have brought in $481 million in capital investment and capped rate increases at 4.9% for both water and sewer – about the average rate increase seen nationwide for both public and private utilities.

Further, Food & Water Watch pushed the city to refuse assistance from any water company, which meant the township government had to build a new water utility from scratch in just a few months.

Fast forward into 2020 and it has become abundantly clear that listening to the activists has resulted in serious challenges for Edison.

First, in light of COVID-19, the Edison-Metuchen Sentinel described the government-run utility as “a reactive department, not a proactive one.” Additionally, the director of the Edison Water Utility admitted that they were “doing as much as we can with the staff we have…we just don’t have the manpower to physically do all the work necessary.”

And just this week, the Edison Township Council will vote to increase water rates by 22%, a 350% increase over the 4.9% increase residents would have seen under the deal with the water company. This increase is on top of a sewer rate increase the township council approved last month.

A leader with the new group Edison Water Watch – part of the South Edison Community Association – noted that “Edison Township got put in an awkward position, required to borrow money that our children and grandchildren will probably have to repay.” Further, she admitted that “many residents probably did not realize it would be such an enormous and expensive task” for the local government to create and operate the drinking water and wastewater systems.

When the local paper contacted Food & Water Watch to get the group’s thoughts on the rate increase, not surprisingly, the group was unavailable for comment. This is probably because they’ve moved on to their next fight, looking to block proven solutions without truly caring about the long-term effects these important decisions have on residents.

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