News Briefs: Officials Want State Oversight for Pittsburgh Water Utility

In this week’s news briefs, the Pennsylvania House passes a bill that would bring Pittsburgh’s troubled utility under the authority of the state, and new research shows how dire the freshwater situation is for northern Canada’s cities
News Briefs: Officials Want State Oversight for Pittsburgh Water Utility

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority could be on its way to being under state oversight.

Last week, members of the Pennsylvania House unanimously passed a proposal to bring the utility under the authority of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission.

“PWSA has been experiencing a number of very public issues over the past year or more,” Rep. Harry Readshaw, one of the legislators who introduced the bill, said in a statement. “News items in the past year have highlighted unsustainable debt levels, billing errors, leaks, unmetered accounts and, especially, lead and other water quality issues. This bill would offer Pittsburgh water customers a new, unbiased level of protection and oversight for the local water quality.”

The bill is now with the Senate.

Source: The Incline

State Pushes for Privatization of Atlantic City’s Water Utility
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other state-appointed officials are pushing for the privatization of Atlantic City’s water utility. But the city’s residents are pushing back, saying they don’t want cost-cutting reforms to suddenly create a situation in Atlantic City similar to what occurred in Flint, Michigan. Along with 40 statewide and national organizations, residents have formed a coalition called AC Citizens Against the State Takeover.

Declining tax revenue is the reason officials want to privatize the Municipal Utilities Authority, which provides water for Atlantic City’s 40,000 residents. According to a report by In These Times, since 2010, the city’s tax base has dropped from $20 billion to less than $7 billion, largely because of the closing of five casinos in the last three years. The city currently has $500 million of debt. Last year, Christie’s administration installed appointees charged with getting the city’s finances in order and now they’re targeting the water utility.

“When you have a city that’s in financial distress, the utility is treated as if it’s a fire sale,” Zach Corrigan, senior attorney at Food & Water Watch, told In These Times. “Whoever bids is able to get a really cheap deal out of fear that the city is going out of business.”

AC Citizens Against the State Takeover is currently collecting signatures to get two initiatives on the November ballot that would require a public referendum before any move to privatize the water utility.

“If a private company comes in, that which happened in Flint could happen here,” Charles Goodman, a city resident and activist, told In These Times.

Source: In These Times

Freshwater Supplies Dwindling for Canada’s Arctic Communities
New research shows that the freshwater supply for Canada’s northernmost communities could be severely depleted by 2024 if action isn’t taken.

Researchers at York University in Ontario identified increased demand and climate change as the reasons why. The study focused on the city of Iqaluit, a community of about 8,000 people and the capital of the territory of Nunavut.

“Extreme climates make the management of freshwater difficult, but add climate change to the mix, along with too few financial and human resources, and northern cities, such as Iqaluit, could run out of freshwater,” lead researcher Andrew Medeiros says in a report by Science Daily.

He says even if population growth remains stagnant in Iqaluit, current climate change projections show demand will outpace the freshwater supply. Researchers looked at methods that are being considered to help with the water shortage, such as diverting water from the nearby Apex River, but nothing provides a long-term solution. If 10 percent of the Apex River is diverted, as is recommended by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, it would extend the freshwater supply by only two years.

Many northern Canadian communities rely on a single, shallow lake reservoir or seasonal replenishment systems that are not always sustainable, especially as the climate warms. The Arctic’s temperatures have increased almost twice the global rate. The research team’s hope is that the study’s forecasting and modeling data can be a resource to help municipal planners and engineers in communities like Iqaluit better plan for the future.

“The availability, quality and security of freshwater in the Canadian Arctic is an increasingly pressing issue,” Medeiros says.

Source: Science Daily


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