Edison, NJ - According to a new fact sheet published by the Township “approximately 12,000 water customers located primarily to the south of Route 287 and currently serviced by NJ American Water will become Edison Environmental Partners customers for water and sewer service” under the proposed Edison-Suez deal, a 40 year lease of Edison’s water and sewer systems to Edison Environmental Partners, a joint venture between Suez and KKR, a private equity firm.
Ahead of the March 28 public meeting, Mayor Thomas Lankey’s administration has created a dedicated website, posting documents related to the $800 million proposal. “To dispel misinformation about Edison’s proposed lease with Suez, our Township website now provides factual information about the benefits and built-in safeguards to help our residents make an informed decision,” Mr. Lankey said.
The documents posted on the website include a Water Assessment from May 2017 and Wastewater System Condition Assessment also from May 2017. The 763 page Concession Agreement with Edison Environmental Partners is also posted.
The public meeting, the first since Mr. Lankey introduced the proposal at his State of the Township address, is slated for Thursday, March 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the Middlesex County College, Performing Arts Center Main Theater, located at 2600 Woodbridge Avenue in Edison.
In a letter, addressed to the residents of Edison Township, Mr. Lankey wrote “All Edison sewer customers are included in this agreement. Depending on where you live, however, your water service may not be impacted.”
“Water customers located south of Route 287, currently serviced by New Jersey American Water, will be serviced by Edison Environmental Partners customers for both water and sewer service. Water customers that are serviced by Middlesex Water in northern Edison, and water customers near the Scotch Plains border, serviced by New Jersey American Water, will see no change to their water service,” he continued.
According to the public notice issued by the Township, the proposed agreement includes an “estimated (subject to adjustment pursuant to the Agreement) residential rate increases of a 4.9% adjustment per year in years 1 through 10 of the Agreement, a 4.5% adjustment per year in years11 through 25 of the Agreement and a 3.5% adjustment per year, in years 26 through 40 of the Agreement.”
Critics of the proposal have cited health concerns. In January, Suez said that water samples from multiple homes and buildings in Bergen and Hudson counties served by its water treatment plant in Haworth showed high levels of lead. According to the company, 108 samples were collected at residences served by Suez Hackensack between July 16, 2018 and December 12, 2018, and 15 of the results exceeded the Lead Action Level of 15 ppb.
The company stated that “the likely source of lead in the drinking water is from the service lines, pipes that extend from the water mains to the homes and businesses, and from lead fixtures in customer homes.” NJDEP said that the state issued Suez a notice of noncompliance on Jan. 7 requiring the company to evaluate the performance of its corrosion control treatment at the Haworth plant.
In February, several impacted towns demanded that Suez speed up its 14-year plan to replace old lead pipes. At least five town councils passed resolutions in 2019 saying Suez's current rate of replacing 7 percent of its lead service lines each year takes too long to address "a public health crisis" and "is untenable, irresponsible, unsafe and unfair." In response, Suez recently agreed to replace 25 percent of the lead pipes in Bergen and Hudson counties by the end of this year.
But in its fact sheet, Mr. Lankey’s administration assured residents that Suez has agreed to infrastructure improvements, including rehabilitating or replacing 11 of the 21 pump stations in the first 7 years. Over the course of the agreement, all pump stations will be rehabilitated or replaced, according to the administration. The Administration also said that the company will assess and repair aging water lines.
The Administration also touted its negotiations on the senior rate freeze. “This agreement was carefully negotiated after a competitive, open process. Our top priorities were to ensure rates remain stable and the Township retains ownership of our water and sewer systems,” Mr. Lankey said. “The proposed agreement fulfills those priorities and is a victory for Edison.”
“There will be no change to the current senior rate freeze program. The rate freezes available to Edison seniors will remain “as is” for current and future participants for the duration of this concession agreement with the same requirements of the current program for sewer rates and impacted water rates,” stated the fact sheet.
Mr. Lankey is asking residents to reserve judgment. “This deal keeps rates stable, includes $851 million worth of investments in Edison with nearly a half-billion dollars in capital improvements to modernize and repair our aging infrastructure, and it maintains the senior rate freeze for sewer and impacted water customers,” Mr. Lankey said. “I look forward to a respectful and thoughtful discussion on the issues related to this decision in the future.”