Edison, NJ – The Township Council will take up for consideration this evening a proposed ordinance that would, if passed, place Edison's essential water and sewer systems under public control.
Under the proposed ordinance, upon the expiration of its existing contract with Edison Water Company, the Township’s Division of Water Supply would retain ownership and commence the operation, management, control, and maintenance of the Township’s municipal water system.
The proposed ordinance also prohibits the Township from leasing or selling its water system or contracting with private firms for the operation and management of the water system.
The proposed ordinance similarly prohibits the Township from leasing or selling the Township’s Sewer Utility or contracting with private firms for the operation and management of the Sewer Utility. Currently, the Township owns and operates its sewer systems.
A first Reading of the ordinance took place on June 23 and the Council will vote on the ordinance at tonight’s meeting, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at the Edison Municipal Building.
The proposed ordinance is a result of a group of local residents and community activists who delivered 4,958 signatures as part of a petition calling for the permanent, public ownership, operation and management of the Township’s essential water and sewer systems.
The campaign took off after residents learned about a 40-year, $811 million proposal to lease the Township’s sewer system and part of its drinking water system to Suez and the private equity firm KKR.
Just weeks after the delivery of that petition to the Township Clerk's office, residents who signed it, were visited by representatives from an entity calling itself the Edison Utility Improvement Program. Representatives from that entity inquired whether residents actually signed the petition and why they signed the petition.
It was later revealed that the Edison Utility Improvement Program was acting on behalf of Suez. “The Township has learned that the Suez/KKR joint venture hired a private firm, without the Township’s knowledge or consent, to confirm the authenticity of petition signatures,” Mayor Thomas Lankey said at the time.
The ordinance indicates that the Township may try to pass a municipal bond to fix the Township’s aging infrastructure. On Saturday, for example, nearly 12,000 residential and business customers in South Edison awoke to find low water pressure or rusty water coming from their household faucets after an old, 16-inch iron water main ruptured on Executive Avenue.
In the wake of that water main break, Mr. Lankey said “most of the cast iron water mains throughout South Edison are old. Over time, even with ordinary use, these mains rust and deteriorate. This is an infrastructure issue that the Township must soon address in a sensible, cost-efficient way.”
According to the Ordinance, “the Township believes that it can more cheaply finance capital improvements for the aging systems through municipal bonds, since private financing costs 1.5 to 2.5 times as much as government borrowing, with these expenses passed on to ratepayers.”
If the Council does not pass the proposed ordinance on Wednesday night, the question will be placed on the ballot, likely in a special election, for the voters to decide.
A full copy of the porposed ordinance can be found here. The Council meets at the Edison Municipal Complex, located at 100 Municipal Blvd in Edison.