EDITORIAL: Less presence in state, but bolder moves
Christie chooses to privatize NJ water supply, compromises quality
Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) is a full-time presidential campaigner and part-time New Jersey governor. Traveling all over the country, motivated by the outlandish idea he will somehow become the president of the United States while polling as low as 4 percent in New Hampshire, Christie has been long-gone from the state he should be taking care of. And during the short time intervals he does spend in New Jersey, he signed off a bill that would fast-track the privatization of many public water systems in New Jersey.
Paradoxically named “The Water Infrastructure Protection Act,” the legislation would actually eviscerate the water infrastructure of the state by allowing private corporations to have more power over essential resources. One of the people who voted in favor of the legislation, Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) said, “We recognize that there are times when private entities might be most capable of operating, maintaining and upgrading drinkable water and sanitary wastewater systems … and the public’s ability to be part of the process.” Even if private entities are more capable of operating the state’s water infrastructure, it doesn’t translate to the notion that citizens should abnegate direct control over the water infrastructure to the private entities. It’s an outcry for more investment over the public control of water.
However, the rationale for supporting the legislation is false, and the government is, in reality, more responsive to its citizens than privatized entities. Despite pervasive indignation over the government's consistent inability to act, it’s still accountable and has a powerful degree of responsiveness to the public, because state actors can be ousted through elections. Contrary to Kyrillos’s statement, corporations are less inclined to answer to the public. Penetrating private entities’ opaque internal mechanisms would be difficult for consumers in the periphery. In the case where buyers are incredibly dissatisfied with the product (water), corporations argue that you can refuse to buy from them. But if a private water supplier is the only supplier in the area, there is a modicum of choice aside from buying it. The average person in New Jersey can’t afford to go to the grocery store and buy Dasani or Poland Spring, and people shouldn’t have to buy water bottles in fear of the water that comes out of their faucet. Private entities lack enough transparency to efficiently and appropriately regulate a resource that is most vital to life.
Attempts at privatization have been made in New Brunswick, but proved to be a failure. After 15 months of a private water contract in the city, it ended on Sept. 16, 2015, since the utility failed to treat water on multiple occasions under oversight of the private company American Water. Rita Yelda, a Food & Water Watch organizer, was outspoken about the privatization in New Brunswick and stated that American Water was an “atrocious company,” and it “preys on communities that are really hard up on cash and can’t really afford their water utility.” The experiment in New Brunswick that sought to give up government oversight on water has hurt local communities in the long run. The company American Water couldn’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards in chlorine and microbes in water.
People don’t think about the water they use, why it is clean or how it got to be clean and safe to use. But the heightened awareness of water’s value only becomes palpable when your water begins to turns brown or toxic. It's a natural resource, but how people access clean water is changing as corporations push for increased privatization and contends that access to water is not a right.
While Christie makes New Jersey’s water private to strengthen ties with rich donors, every New Jersey resident should vehemently oppose this new legislation, because we’re the ones who are going to have to live with the consequences.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.