Canonsburg should not sell its wastewater treatment system to Pennsylvania American Water. The Observer-Reporter recently reported that the borough solicitor has been meeting with the company about privatizing the Canonsburg-Houston Joint Authority. Selling the utility would be a terrible deal for households and local businesses.
A sale to the company would substantially increase the cost of expanding the wastewater treatment plant. To finance the project, both the borough and the authority can issue low-cost, tax-exempt bonds, which aren’t available to a private water company. Private financing is one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half times as expensive as public financing on the municipal bond market. These higher costs translate into substantially higher rates for consumers.
Across the country, consumers have seen their sewer bills skyrocket after American Water took control of their sewer systems. In Coatesville, for example, sewer rates have more than quadrupled since the company purchased the city’s sewer system in 2001. A typical Coatesville household now pays more than $900 a year just for sewer service from Pennsylvania American Water.
Canonsburg and Houston should keep their wastewater treatment system in public hands.
Bernhardt is the Pennsylvania organizer for Food and Water Watch. Brooks is the senior national researcher for the Utility Workers Union of America.