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The elephant in the room: Privatization of our Water

April 19, 2012

Sly King Moffitt’s “study” committee met for all of ten minutes today to approve seizure of an award-winning public water system from Asheville to hand over to an unelected body against the will of the people and public officials of the county. At the meeting, the committee voted unanimously to adopt the draft recommendations released on Friday, April 13,  with amendments.

There was no discussion of the  long-term implications of such a reckless and fundamentally undemocratic move to EVERY public utility in EVERY municipality in the state.  I understand that the N.C. League of Municipalities has taken a strong stand against this proposal and will post that as soon as I get a copy. (UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the letter.]

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room:  Moffitt has said privatization is not his end goal. Yet, he sits on a General Assembly privatization committee where they have been discussing the privatization of State assets like transportation, schools, and water utilities.  Barry Summers at SaveAsheville’sWater put it best:

And while this issue [privatization] has been dismissed and marginalized throughout, I believe that the elephant in the room is privatization. Attempts to privatize municipal water systems have already come to WNC, and there will surely be more. If this forced transfer of Asheville’s water system to the unelected MSD makes it easier for private companies to gain a foothold in controlling our precious natural resource, as I believe it will, I know that there will be a few who will find that a positive outcome. As for the rest of us, we would not forget about who facilitated this.

Thanks to Clean Water for N.C., I just learned that the private company AquaNC is purchasing its first private water utility in Buncombe, a 25 unit trailer park in Fairview. They will be buying water from the City of Asheville and reselling it. All along, Moffitt has been saying that his motivation in his attack of Asheville’s water is to keep the City from charging County residents more for water (which is hogwash because the Sullivan legislation already prevents that.) He also says he wants to force the City to keep its rates down for businesses (hey, I would like free water, too, but I realize good, clean water comes at a cost).  So, anyway, AquaNC’s purchase in Buncombe brings up some pretty interesting questions. For one, what’s to prevent them from buying Asheville’s water and then selling it to residents at a premium? I’m going to research this and will let you know what I find out. (What I’m trying to confirm: Can a company buy the water from the City and then resell at a higher rate than what the City charges? If this is the case, how is Moffitt’s actions against the City protecting anyone from higher rates?)

Here’s something else for Buncombe to consider when it comes to privatization of water:

TV clip: Aqua America blamed for over-pumping

An internet search on Aqua America popped up this TV report showing what happened in a neighborhood in Raleigh where Aqua America is blamed for over-pumping nearby community wells, leaving their properties dry. Due to the resulting health hazard of living with no water, Wake County announced that residents had to find a different source of water or leave. That news report was in 2010, so I’m going to look into the follow-up.

(Illustration credit: Scrutiny Hooligans)

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