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Bill to privatize public water raises concerns

Posted: 6:12 PM, Feb 03, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-04 13:49:56Z

GREEN BAY, Wis.- Wisconsinites are fighting back as a private Pennsylvania company launches a push to buy public water systems in Wisconsin.  Opponents say your water bills could skyrocket and your health could be at risk but the company says their plans mean improving the water we drink.

Lindsay Dorff is a young mother who fears her children could be in danger if this bill passes.

"I'm really concerned about the lack of accountability that would happen if water switched to a private company," said Dorff.
 
Dorff has a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old at home and she says she hears stories of kids in Flint, Michigan with lead poisoning.
 
"You hear horror stories about them going to the doctor and hearing oh it will probably just take a few points off of their IQ and you think how sickening that must be for those parents," said Dorff.
 
Right now water is a public resource and they don't make a profit.  This bill being pushed by Aqua America out of Pennsylvania would change that. 
 
Aqua America currently operates water for 8 states according to their website.  The company director of legislature and public affairs, Kimberly Joyce sent NBC26 this statement regarding the concerns.
 
“The legislation currently being discussed in the Wisconsin State Senate (Senate Bill 432) would lift a regulatory barrier that limits municipalities’ options for operating and managing their water and wastewater systems. Senate Bill 432 would offer a solution for municipalities across the state to partner with a regulated water utility such as Aqua America to enable infrastructure improvements, system growth for economic development opportunities, and reliable service to the community.
 
“Aqua America provides dependable, quality water and wastewater services to more than 3 million people across the U.S. Aqua’s customers nationwide pay about a penny a gallon for quality drinking water delivered to their taps. We work closely with states and municipalities to help solve challenges such as problems associated with rapidly aging infrastructure and local budget constraints. These are challenges faced by municipalities across the country and certainly here in Wisconsin.
 
“As a regulated water utility, our water quality, service and operations must adhere to stringent environmental and financial standards. Our priorities are to ensure that a community’s water supply meets or surpasses federal and state drinking water standards, and to provide safe and efficient water and wastewater services at reasonable rates. We look forward to the passage of Senate Bill 432 to give the residents of Wisconsin a strong, viable option to improve their water and wastewater service and infrastructure now and for future generations.”
 
Democratic Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay says privatizing water is a bad idea.  
 
"Aqua and corporations like them are not responsible to the people they serve.  They are not accountable to them, they make their profits by cutting staff, cutting corners and raising rates," said Sen. Hansen.
 
Aqua America does not control the water for Michigan and this bill does not mean what happened there would happen here, still Dorff says she sees no need for it.
 
"I think if we can contact enough people and get them to contact their state senators I'm hopeful maybe things can change," said Dorff.
 
The water privatization bill has already passed the Assembly and could be voted on in the Senate as early as next week.