New Brunswick, American Water Deal Not Expected To Affect Township

Township buys water from New Brunswick; rates are set through 2022.

Vornlocker 4-8-141

Township manager Bob Vornlocker said changes in who runs or owns the New Brunswick water utility would have no affect on what the township pays for the water it buys from the utility through 2022.

A New Brunswick-based activist Web site’s contention that a change in who runs the New Brunswick water utility will affect what the township pays for its water is not correct, a township official said Aug. 26.

That’s because the township buys water from New Brunswick in bulk, under a contract that is in effect through the end of 2026, said township manager Bob Vornlocker.

The New Brunswick Web site alleges that the city is preparing to “privatize” its water utility, and that such an action will result in an increase in what the utility’s customers pay for water.

The township buys water from New Brunswick, American Water Operations & Maintenance and South Brunswick, Vornlocker said. South Brunswick water is used for about 100 customers in the Little Rocky Hill area, he said.

New Brunswick has entered into an agreement with American Water under which the company supplies four licensed water plant operators to the city to run its plant. The agreement was necessitated after the city’s two licensed operators left for other positions, city spokeswoman Jennifer Bradshaw said.

The activist site contends this agreement amounts to “privatization,” a charge which has been picked up by Food & Water Water Watch, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group with an office in the city. The activist site’s editor once worked with Food & Water Watch to defeat a proposal in Trenton through which American Water would have purchased much of that city’s water plant.

Even if the city was planning on selling its plant to American Water, township residents would not be affected, Vornlocker said.

“These are long-term contracts,” he said of the township’s deal with New Brunswick. “This is not going to affect the rates we pay.”

“We have contracts that are legally binding regardless of who it is that supplies water to us,” Vornlocker said. “If (American Water) buys the facility, they’re still obligated to honor the contract.”

In 2013, the township paid New Brunswick $1,054,715.94 for water, Vornlocker said. From Jan. 1 through the end of July 2014, the township paid New Brunswick $373,987.73 for water, he said.

Vornlocker said that the rates charged by New Brunswick, like those charged by American Water, are regulated by the state Board of Public Utilities.

Regardless, New Brunswick has no intention of selling its plant, Bradshaw said.

“We’re not selling anything,” she said. “We have a Memorandum of Agreement in place in which they are providing us licensed operators to help us run the water treatment plants.”

The MOA, entered into in July, is planned to be replaced by a long-term agreement, Bradshaw said.

She said the departure of the two city employees who held licenses left the city in a difficult position.

“If we don’t have staff with these licenses, we can’t turn the plant on,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said the city is currently looking for permanent employees to replace those who left, as well as a permanent water utility manager. The latter position is being temporarily filled by New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill.

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