We deserve a water system that is transparent, accountable and fair.
Public water is the norm in our country, not the exception. In fact, more than 80% of the U.S. is already served by public water systems.
And the reasons public water would benefit us in the Kanawha Valley are clear:
WV American Water charges us outrageous rates. We pay the 3rd highest rates of any major water system in the country. According to a new study from Food and Water Watch, large, for-profit privately owned systems charged 59% more than large publicly owned systems.
The regulatory process is not working for us. West Virginia American Water has asked for 8 rate increases since 2000, and rates have gone up more than 70% since then. The last rate case was business as usual - after the water company requested the largest rate increase in its history, the Public Service Commission granted a 15.1% rate increase without scrutinizing the company's investment priorities.
WV American Water customers are still at risk of chemical contamination. The company's newly-installed monitoring equipment on the Elk River does not monitor for MCHM. And the company has no secondary water source for 300,000 people should another crisis occur.
WV American Water puts corporate profits before our safety. The company removed its chemical testing laboratory and Elk River water quality monitoring equipment from the Elk River treatment plant in 2004-5 to cut costs. Meanwhile, it pays $5-8 million a year to its parent company, New Jersey-based American Water Works.
WV American Water doesn’t maintain our infrastructure. Currently more than a third of our treated water is lost to leaks before it reaches customers. At current investment levels, it would take nearly 400 years to replace all of the water mains. The new rate hike does not significantly increase the rate of main replacement, but it does increase WV American Water's dividend payments to its parent company.
West Virginia American Water's priorities are driven by its parent company, not our community. The water company's investment priorities, including its plan to invest more money in installing automated meters than proactively replacing water mains over the next 5 years, are dictated by its parent company, New Jersey-based American Water. WV American Water also sends 70% of its profits to its parent company as dividends instead of re-investing that money in our crumbling infrastructure.
WV American Water keeps the public in the dark. The company refused to answer basic questions about its emergency planning and preparedness during the Public Service Commission’s investigation of its response to the spill.
Who Else Has Done It?
Just a few years ago, communities in Florida, tired of the unreliable and untrustworthy service of their water company Aqua Florida (a subsidiary of Aqua America, the second largest private water company in the country), pressured Aqua into selling their Florida utilities to local municipalities.
Beyond Florida, ratepayers in these cities are fighting or have recently won public water system campaigns:
- Indianapolis, IN
- Claremont, CA
- Apple Valley, CA
- Missoula, MT
- Felton, CA
- Montara, CA
- Cave Creek, AZ