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For sale: your water

Bryan McDaniel, CUB’s Director of Governmental Affairs

By Bryan McDaniel, Director of Governmental Affairs 

Water. We need it to live. Should we all own this valuable resource, or should private companies own our water? That question will be asked all over the state in the wake of two private companies successfully pushing for one of the nation’s most substantial water-privatization laws here in Illinois.

Aqua Illinois and Illinois American Water urged passage of House Bill 4508 in the spring of 2018. That means they can now crisscross our state offering cash-strapped municipalities top dollar for their systems, while the ratepayers of Aqua and Illinois American Water pay for their expansion.

Since the legislation passed in the spring of 2018, the two companies have already filed for at least ten acquisitions with the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Those acquisitions are scheduled to cost the ratepayers of the two companies $86.8 million, and the companies are likely just getting started.

As I write this, their agents are knocking on the doors of Illinois municipalities, dazzling them with big money for water systems that are fully depreciated and in need of investment.

Private Water cites their “compliance with regulatory standards,” yet in University Park, Illinois, thousands of Aqua’s customers still don’t trust their water.

Aqua switched the city to river water, changed the chemical composition of water, and never informed the EPA of those changes. Then, water started testing high for lead all over town. The water was left unusable for months. Aqua was recently ordered by a court to continue bottle water deliveries. Nearly seven months after this nightmare in University Park began, it is still ongoing.

Illinois Attorney General Raoul has also brought suit against the company. The lawsuit claims the company failed to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements and violated construction and operating permit requirements.

So much for private water making us safer and our water cleaner.

CUB believes people deserve a chance to have a say in the privatization of their water through a referendum. CUB will continue to advocate for this idea in the spring legislative session. If you agree, please call your State Representative and State Senator.