Urban Milwaukee

Water Is a “Life and Death” Matter

Bruce Murphy talks on TMJ about bill easing private firms' purchase of water utilities.

By - Feb 12th, 2016 11:48 am
No Toxic Water. Photo courtesy of the Overpass Light Brigade.

No Toxic Water. Photo courtesy of the
Overpass Light Brigade.

Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy talked today with WTMJ’s “Wisconsin Morning News” co-hosts Gene Mueller and Jane Matenaer, about the proposed bill that would allow out-of-state companies to buy public water utilities.

Murphy did the first coverage in the state on the proposed law, which was proposed by the company Aqua America, and pushed by its lobbyist Steven Foti, a former Republican legislator and Assembly Majority Leader. Not one municipality in the state has requested the legislation.

Are the problems in Flint, Michigan, relevant to this discussion? Murphy was asked. “There are two things that stand about Flint,” he noted. “One is that they were clearly trying to cut costs. The second thing is that government oversight failed. You know, I think the first thing a private company would do is look to cut costs.”

“Water is life for people,” Murphy added. “It’s a life or death proposition. If its bad you get sickness and death. So it’s not something you want to mess around with.”

After Urban Milwaukee covered the story, other media began covering the issue.  The bill had been passed by the state Assembly and seemed ready for quick passage by the Senate, but that has stalled as concerns have been raised by opponents and some local officials. The city of Milton passed an anti-water privatization ordinance and called on the state Senate to reject the bill.

4 thoughts on “Water Is a “Life and Death” Matter”

  1. AG says:

    I still haven’t 100% committed to being against this, but one thing that caught my attention was when Gene (I think it was Gene?) asked “Should anyone make profit off of water?” That reminded me of my stance on electric Utilities… that ultimately I believe those should be non-profit organizations. I think that has swayed me against the idea of privately owned utilities. Plus that still leaves the door open for private contracts if it makes sense.

  2. Art Hackett says:

    Maybe the GOP is just doing the merciful thing. We need water and a lot of the infrastructure that delivers it is going to need upgrades that will cost money. If a publicly owned utility raises rates that is considered a tax which is forbidden by party doctrine. One the other hand, getting jacked over by a privately held monopoly is a sacred sacrifice to capitalism.

  3. blurondo says:

    The words “GOP” and “merciful” never belong in the same sentence.

  4. Skeptic says:

    Read and weep, people. Aqua NC is a subsidiary of Aqua America, the folks who brought this enlightened legislation to Wisconsin. You can bet that Aqua America has its corporate eye on Waukesha, pushing to bring Great Lakes water over the subcontinental divide. If Waukesha gets approval for its diversion, and with laws like this already in place, watch for Great Lakes water to be sold to places farther and farther west–where they really need it.

    May 4, 2015
    Aqua NC seeks another rate hike
    by John Murawski

    Aqua North Carolina, the state’s biggest non-municipal water utility, is seeking its second rate increase under a new state policy that allows small rate increases without public hearings.

    While the new rate requests are relatively small, Aqua already charges about twice as much as municipal water systems in Raleigh, Durham, Cary and other cities. Aqua’s 750 water systems and 62 treatment plants in North Carolina are collectively larger than a small town, totaling 92,500 customers and more than 400 subdivisions in Wake County alone.. . . .

    Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article20211792.html#storylink=cpy

    Can Aqua Wisconsin be far behind?

    There is also a 3-part series in the publication INDY WEEK (Raleigh-Durham) from Dec 2012 – Jan 2013 that catalogs customer dissatisfaction, frequent rate hikes, out-of-whack billing practices, quality concerns and lack of response to customers’ concerns by Acqua NC.


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