You would be forgiven for being unaware of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) before now. BCWSA manages the types of household functions most of us don’t give a second thought to – the water coming out of their faucets and what happens to everything that goes down the drain.
But now, BCWSA is at the center of a fight to privatize these essential services that Bucks County residents rely on, which could mean higher water bills and less accountability for homeowners.
BCWSA is an independent non-profit, meaning their sole purpose is to take care of the water and sewer infrastructure for over half a million people here in Bucks County.
Aqua, on the other hand, is one of the largest utility companies in the United States with a history of buying up and privatizing small or struggling water and sewer authorities all across the state.
BCWSA isn’t struggling for resources and has been dutifully serving the residents of Bucks County since 1962. But Aqua’s current offer to purchase the system threatens significant rate hikes for Bucks County families.
Even though Aqua has sworn that they will not substantially raise rates for current BCWSA ratepayers, there’s good reason to doubt they can follow through. In fact, the current proposal from Aqua only requires them to freeze rates for Bucks residents for one year.
A current Aqua customer in the New Hope area, who wished to remain anonymous, saw a 79 percent increase in the five years since their sewer services were bought by Aqua. The customer said that their bill for a household using 4,000 gallons of water per month went from $78 a month in 2017 to $137 a month today.
In 2016 Act 12 went into effect, making it much easier for private companies to buy water systems from local municipalities. Since then, we’ve seen aggressive takeovers by Aqua and companies like them all across the state. The takeover of BCWSA would be the largest in the state, with the potential to impact over 100,000 Bucks County residents and small businesses.
But privatization of essential services like water and sewage utilities tends to be incredibly unpopular. We saw this at a July public forum held by Aqua and attended by CVPA staff: one resident asked his fellow neighbors to raise their hands if they wanted to stop the sale. Of the 80 plus people in attendance, every single hand went in the air.
We believe that access to clean, affordable drinking water is a basic human right – one that privatization threatens. CVPA has stood alongside Chester Water Authority and other municipalities fighting water privatization. Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts and Food & Water Watch have been at the helm of organizing this fight locally, and we’re proud to stand with them and the many Bucks County residents opposed to this takeover.
This sale is moving very quickly – it was only first announced in mid-July. And despite promises to ensure the public has a chance to weigh in, there are real concerns that too many residents aren’t even aware of the proposed takeover. We’ve heard that the BCWSA Board will not vote on the proposed sale until after Labor Day, giving us time to make our voices heard in a number of ways. Here are a few ways that concerned residents can weigh in:
- Sign Food & Water Watch’s petition telling the County Commissioners to reject privatization.
- Attend the County Commissioners’ Meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 10:30 am in Doylestown and make a public comment opposing the sale. Details here.
- Sign up here for NOPE’s Organizing Call the night before to help prepare!
- Talk to your neighbors! This issue impacts all of us and we have a shared interest in this fight.