United Water’s Service Failures Indicative of Problems Suffered Under Privatized Utilities

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Seth Gladstone – sgladstone@fwwatch.org

United Water’s Service Failures Indicative of Problems Suffered Under Privatized Utilities

WASHINGTON - Billing problems, poor system maintenance, repair delays, workforce
reductions and other cost-cutting measures are just some of the many
problems plaguing United Water, reveals a new report released today by
the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. Entitled United
Water: Suez Environnement’s Poor Record in the United States,
the report details how this subsidiary of the French corporation Suez
Environnement, and the second-largest private operator of municipal
water systems in the U.S., compromises consumer and environmental safety
at the expense of profits.

“The many problems experienced by communities that have suffered
under United Water’s so-called ‘service’ illustrate why the movement to
stop the privatization of water is gaining momentum,” said Wenonah
Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “While private
water companies such as United Water often promise to improve the
quality of aging, underfunded water systems, most communities find that
their water service actually deteriorates under private control.”

By taking over smaller municipal water systems, United Water has
grown into the second-largest private provider of drinking and
wastewater services in the U.S. As of 2009, the company served 7.2
million customers in 26 states.

Yet expansion has come at a cost. Several municipalities, such as
Atlanta, Ga.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Gary, Ind.; and Gloucester, Mass. ended
contracts with the company after suffering from maintenance backlogs,
sewage spills, contaminated drinking water, workforce reductions and
infrastructure problems.

Privatized water systems often end up costing municipalities extra
money in the form of fines for water quality violations and water loss,
among other problems. Gary, Ind., which terminated its contract with
United Water earlier this year, expects to save $8 million a year under
public operation of its water system.

Ratepayers have also suffered financially under United Water’s
service. North Brunswick, N.J., cancelled its water contract with United
Water in 2002, after customers there saw their bills increase by 100 to
200 percent.

“Reliable public operation of water systems is the best way to ensure
the integrity of these essential services. With many communities
lacking funds to upgrade and maintain their water systems, the federal
government should implement a dedicated source of funding so that all
Americans can have access to safe, reliable, affordable drinking and
wastewater services,” said Hauter.

United Water: Suez Environnement’s Poor Record in the United
States is available here: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/report/united-water/

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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