A bill pushed by Aqua America Inc., a Pennsylvania company managing multiple water utilities, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and authored by Representative Tyler August (R)- Geneva has gone down the drain in the Wisconsin Senate. The legislation, Assembly bill 554, would have allowed the privatization of public water facilities by out of state companies, and also make public referendums on proposed purchases optional rather than mandatory.
Strong concerns about the bill were voiced by citizens, public groups, the news media, and the Wisconsin League of Conversation Voters. State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay stated, “These bills were not introduced in response to any – to any request, from any local government here in Wisconsin. No one here asked for these bills. No one here has said there is a problem with local water utilities.”
The introduction and timing of the bill was particularly curious in light of the water emergency in Flint, Michigan which was widely reported worldwide. Interestingly, according to Fox 6 News, Flint residents paid the highest water bills of 500 communities in Michigan in 2015. Privatizing water services can be a dangerous business, particularly for public utilities, and local citizens.