SAVE THE RESERVOIR
Local and National Press Coverage!
Our Chester Day of Action was featured on the front cover of the Delco Daily Times on Sunday, March 21. Then, on Tuesday, March 23, The American Prospect published and in-depth piece that encapsulates the entire CWA issue and journey. Please read both pieces!
The American Prospect
Something in the Water: Should a water authority be privatized to rescue a municipality’s finances? The story of Chester, Pennsylvania, and its environs is an alarming harbinger of things to come
Delco Sunday Times
Fight For Life: Environmentalists canvass Chester to lobby for clean air and water
Rep. Sappey (PA-158) introduced HB 144 and Rep. Lawrence (PA13) introduced HB 97 to the PA house in the new 2021 legislative session (the two other bipartisan bills died without being brought up for a vote at the end of 2020). Please write to your elected officials here to tell them to support this legislation. This legislation helps to protect water ratepayers from the predatory behavior of BIG WATER and includes a ratepayer referendum before a sale—meaning that ratepayers could vote "no" to an acquisition and stop a sale from going through. The bills are currently sitting in the Consumer Affairs committee. This committee has a new chair. Let's write to these committee members and tell them how important this issue is to CWA ratepayers!
(customize this email with your OWN personal story, this makes it more likely that they will read and pay attention)
PA Supreme Court Case
On September 16, CWA attorneys argued a Right-to-Know case in front of the Supreme Court. This case is CWA asking the DCED for the right to see un-redacted documents directly related to the CWA. It's about transparency and shedding light on the communications between the DCED (Department of Community and Economic Development), the Act 47 Team (the city of Chester has been under Act 47 since 1995), the City of Chester, and Aqua. The ratepayers have a right to know what was discussed that affects their interests and their investment in CWA. We are waiting for the court to render its decision.
PA Commonwealth Court Case
On April 24, Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Spiros Angelos issued an order indicating any sale of CWA assets must be approved not only by the City of Chester, but also by Chester County (by the county commissioners) and Delaware County (by the county council), where the bulk of CWA's customers live. The Receiver required the City of Chester to appeal that ruling, and the case has now gone up to the Commonwealth Court. Oral arguments in that appeal were heard on November 9, 2020. If the ruling is upheld, the City of Chester would not be able to dissolve the CWA. We are waiting for the court to render its decision.
This is a whole community effort. Tell your friends, family and neighbors how they can Save CWA. Sign up to knock doors in your neighborhood, deliver yard signs, staff the polls on election day to inform voters. Each new person on board is one step closer to saving CWA.
Contact Your Elected Officials
Guess what? Saving CWA is EASY! All it takes is one piece of legislation, and the CWA is saved! With our simple tool, enter your address and select from an email starter or write your own. Make your voice heard and Save CWA.
Keep Up to Date
We are a grassroots effort lead by folks in your own community and supported by the CWA. There are lots of ways to help—both big and small. Join us. You make the difference!
The Chester Water Authority (CWA) is an award-winning, municipal authority dating back over 150 years and serves over 200,000 people (about 49,000 customers) in Delaware and Chester Counties. The CWA is run by a nine-member board comprised of 3 members from Chester City, 3 from the surrounding Delaware County, and 3 from Chester County. The CWA has an outstanding reputation as a well-managed and well-maintained municipal authority.
Only 19% of CWA’s customer base is in the city of Chester; 81% is located elsewhere in Delaware and Chester counties.
In addition the CWA has won many awards, including:
- Game Changer Award from the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
- The Chester Water Authority's (CWA) Octoraro treatment plant has been selected to receive the prestigious Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) Award for the 8th consecutive year
- Excellence in Water Treatment Award from Partnership for Safe Water
- George Warren Fuller Award from the American Water Works Association
The CWA board has faithfully looked out for its ratepayers, unanimously rejecting Aqua's unsolicited offer in 2017. The board continues to advocate for ratepayers in keeping CWA a public, non-profit, utility.
Why Would Aqua Want to Buy CWA?
It’s simple. Money. Land. And ultimately Power. Make no mistake about it. Aqua America (Essential Utilities) is a Water Profiteer. All across the United Sates, communities, like ours, are fighting to reclaim their water rights by attempting to forcibly remove Aqua America. We are lucky. We have the opportunity to Save CWA and Save Ourselves NOW before it’s too late!
- CWA owns over 2000 acres of valuable land assets that can be sold for development. Say goodbye to the Octoraro Reservoir and open space.
- As ratepayers, we are built-in company equity. Once the CWA is purchased, raising our rates means raising Aqua’s profits.
- Aqua’s goal is to own all the pipes in our Pennsylvania ground. They have made deals to own: water, sewer, and natural gas pipes.
Consequences of a Sale
Loss of Access to the Octoraro Reservoir
CWA owns the two-billion-gallon Octoraro Reservoir. From fishing and hiking to boating and kayaking, the reservoir is free and open to the community for enjoyment and recreation. As with its other acquisitions such as the Springton Reservoir in Delaware County, it can be expected that Aqua America will fence-off the reservoir from the community and prohibit recreational activities.
Loss of Open Space
CWA has significant land holdings. They maintain over 2000 acres of land that protects our water source and watershed. This untouched land creates our community’s bucolic setting that is much loved and sought after. It is also the home to wildlife, including bald eagles, herons, wild turkeys and more. Based on its well-documented history, Aqua America will likely parcel and sell these land holdings for private homes and commercial businesses.
Rates Will Increase
In every acquisition it has made, Aqua America hikes up water bills through rapid-fire rate increases and infrastructure surcharges.
Loss of Power Over Our Water
Probably the ultimate loss is the community’s loss over its water. Pure, clean water is a limited, precious resource that is guaranteed to Pennsylvanians by our state constitution. As trustee of these natural resources, our government should preserve them and not sell them to profit-driven companies.
Timeline of the Attempted Hostile Takeover
Passage of Act 12
In 2016, Pennsylvania lawmakers in Harrisburg passed a piece of legislation, Act 12 (attached to House Bill 1326), that resulted in two consequences.
Private companies can offer to buy municipal authorities for more than they are worth.
Poorer communities are tempted to accept high dollar bids.
Municipal authorities no longer have to be in financial or operational distress to be purchased by private companies.
CWA is suddenly a target. It has never been in distress in its 150+ year history.
Aqua's Unsolicited Bid
In 2017, just a year after Act 12 passed, Aqua made a $320M unsolicited bid to purchase the CWA. The CWA board unanimously rejected the offer. The board determined that there was no benefit to ratepayers from the sale. If CWA was sold, rates would go up and the public would lose access to the Octoraro Reservoir——a lose-lose situation. The CWA board's decision to reject this bid has saved ratepayers nearly $200M.
CWA's Attempts to Protect Our Water and Us
The City of Chester is in financial distress. In an attempt to protect CWA from future hostile takeover bids by private corporations and to support the City of Chester, CWA offered the city a one-time $60M payment in exchange for placing the authority in a trust for 40 years. The City of Chester never responded to this offer.
Aqua Sues CWA
Aqua buys water from CWA. As a corporate ratepayer, Aqua sued CWA. They did not want CWA to bail out the City of Chester with the $60M offer making the city solvent and less susceptible to accepting a corporate buyout.
Note: In court proceedings between the City of Chester and CWA, the City of Chester is supported by Aqua's legal counsel.
City of Chester in Critical Financial Distress
In February, the City of Chester put out a Request for Proposals for the acquisition of the assets of CWA, despite CWA not being an asset of the City. The City receives 3 bids: Aqua Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania American Water, and CWA (repeating its offer from 2019).
COVID-19 struck and the City of Chester subsequently lost millions of dollars in revenue when the casino closed. On April 13, Governor Wolf placed the City of Chester into receivership with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). CWA issued a statement regarding this declaration.
On April 24, Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Spiros Angelos issued an order indicating any sale of CWA assets must be approved not only by the city, but also by Chester and Delaware counties, where the bulk of CWA's customers live. The City of Chester has appealed that ruling. The case went up to the Commonwealth Court, who heard oral arguments in the case en banc (all members, instead of just one judge or a small group of judges) in November. We are awaiting their decision.
In June, Speaker of the PA House, Rep. Mike Turzai retired to go work for Essential Utilities.
Because of activism of CWA ratepayers, legislation was introduced to the PA House. HB 2597 was introduced by Rep. John Lawrence (PA 13) in July. HB 2746 was introduced by Rep. Christina Sappey (PA 158) in August. Both of these bills were referred to the Consumer Affairs Committee. HB 2597 was given a hearing in September. Statements in the hearing were given by Cynthia Leitzell, CWA Chairperson, and Karen Versuk, director of operations for Penn Township. Both bills died in committee without ever being brought up for a vote at the end of the 2020 legislative session.
Support for CWA from Community Leaders
"We appreciate and understand the concerns of many Chester County residents regarding any potential sale of the Chester Water Authority to a private water utility company. We agree that the sale of Chester Water Authority to a private water utility company is not in the best interest of the Authority nor its ratepayers – our businesses and residents. The County has taken an active role in the on-going litigation about this very issue and will fight to keep Chester Water Authority a public entity."
– Chester County Board of Commissioners
"We, the undersigned, as elected representatives of the citizens of the Borough of Oxford, are strongly opposed to the sale of the Chester Water Authority to a for-profit corporation.
Chester Water Authority, as a not-for-profit public authority, has a long history of providing water to the public at reasonable rates. We wish to have them continue to do so.
We value the Octoraro Reservoir as a recreational resource for the local area and do not want the public to lose access to it as a result of a sale to a private entity."
– Oxford Borough Council
"The Governor has taken a very disturbing position in this effort by Aqua PA to takeover the Chester Water Authority, under the guise of this having to do with the Act 47 distressed status of the City of Chester. The curious filing by your Southeast Regional Office suggests that the DEP is acting for the benefit of Aqua's share holders and not the CWA ratepayers or the general public.
This unprecedented effort to challenge the autonomy of a long standing municipal authority is part of a strategy for Aqua to monopolize the water and wastewater customer base for the broader region. We support privatization of systems in cases where municipal authorities desire to be sold, but not in this hostile takeover effort by the profit motivated Investor Owned Utility.
Many S.A.V.E. supporters live in the service area and benefit from the natural resources of the CWA. We strongly object to this hostile takeover of the CWA."
– Blair Fleischmann, Executive Director of S.A.V.E.
"We, the Officer and Members of the Longwood Fire Company, strongly request the Chester Water Authority (CWA) remain a municipal authority and not be sold to a for-profit company. CWA is a valuable asset to our fire company in the Chester County communities. CWA is and always has been a good neighbor, providing a high quality of service and continuous support to our fire company.
The CWA leadership and employees are very responsive to the needs of our organization and extremely responsive when maintenance or repairs are need."
– AJ McCarthy, Fire Chief, Longwood Fire Company
"We would like to express our opposition to the sale of CWA. Chester Water currently owns approximately 750 acres of open ground in Colerain Township including the Boat Landing on Spruce Grove Road.
If Aqua would buy and live up to their current standard of fencing off and closing public access, this would have a traumatic effect on our community."
– Colerain Township Supervisors
"We support the unanimous decision of the Board of Directors of the Chester Water Authority to reject the proposal of Aqua America purchase CWA 's assets and customers.
We request that the CWA Board not sell its customers and assets to a for profit company.
We request that the Board continue to protect our Township residents and businesses by putting the interests of the ratepayers first when making decisions about the Authority's operations and future."
– Lower Chichester Township Board of Commissioners
Resolutions and Letters of Support
Chester County Commissioners
East Marlborough Township
East Nottingham Township
Borough of Kennett Square
London Grove Township
London Grove Township Municipal Authority
Lower Oxford Township
New London Township
Upper Oxford Township
West Nottingham Township
Township of Aston
Chadds Ford Township
Township of Chester
Township of Concord
Township of Lower Chichester
Borough of Marcus Hook
Borough of Parkside
Borough of Trainer
Upper Chichester Township
Stephen Barrar (R) (former 160th Legislative)
Carolyn Comitta (D) (former 156th Legislative)
Bryan Cutler (R) (100th Legislative)
Brian Kirkland (D) (159th Legislative)
Leanne Krueger (D) (161st Legislative)
John Lawrence (R) (13th Legislative)
Chris Quinn (R) (168th Legislative)
Christina Sappey (D) (158th Legislative)
Avondale Fire Company
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers - PA Chapter
Cochranville Fire Company
Conservation Voters of PA
Elk Creeks Watershed Association
Kennett Fire Company
Longwood Fire Company
Oxford Region Planning Committee
Support CWA at the Following Events
Please note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the public events below are most likely cancelled.
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from the Pennsylvania Constitution,
Article I, Section 27:
"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."