Tackling water pollution in Nassau County, New York

Tackling water pollution in Nassau County, New York

  In the U.S. there are nearly 16,000 wastewater systems that prevent water pollution by taking in municipal sewage, treating it, and returning it to its natural state. A marvel of the Clean Water Act of 1972, our nation committed to cleaning, preserving and safeguarding its waterways and the aquatic life that depends on them while maintaining an advanced public health system that is of envy to many parts of the world – where 2.4 billion people lack access to sanitation. Indeed during this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, tourists were warned of polluted beaches as only 40% of Rio de Janero’s sewage is treated; the rest is dumped and left to decompose in oceans and lagoons. Aside from the “yuck” factor – anyone who lives near a beach town knows that beach closures can send beach-goers running and long-term pollution can destroy local economies. It’s no wonder that after Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island and the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant failed to treat tens of millions of gallons of sewage before dumping it into the Western Bays on Nassau County’s South Shore – a coalition of citizen activists, environmental leaders and elected officials decided that it was time to tackle this environmental problem in a serious way. First, Federal, State, County and local elected leaders from New York and Nassau County worked to secure over $800 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to upgrade the plant which is part of a system that treats the sewage of 1.2 million residents of densely populated Nassau County. Then, County Executive Ed Mangano selected United Water...
Pennsylvania’s commitment to infrastructure investment benefits environment, economy

Pennsylvania’s commitment to infrastructure investment benefits environment, economy

  Pennsylvania’s state leadership got it right. When Governor Corbett announced the availability of $41.7 million in loans for water infrastructure earlier this year, he was quoted as follows: “The investments that we make today in our environment and economy will improve the quality of life for Pennsylvanians in all corners of the Commonwealth.” In addition to the State’s leadership, Pennsylvania has several water companies that are also able to finance water investments. United Water will do our part, in partnership with the state and communities where we do business, to invest nearly $46 million over the next 5 years in the areas we serve – for reliability purposes. Our customers in several communities including Bloomsburg, Mechanicsburg, Dallas, Hummelstown and the suburbs of Harrisburg will benefit from these reliability investments. Our improvement initiatives are especially timely as changing weather patterns make infrastructure ever more vulnerable to the whims of nature. It should come as no surprise that states which prioritize public investments and seek public-private solutions are able to attract more money than those that don’t. Pennsylvania has not been complacent with the state of its infrastructure for quite some time. A line of Pennsylvania Governors have lead on this issue. In fact, since 1996 Pennsylvania has utilized an infrastructure replacement financing program, a rate mechanism, that has effectively directed private companies like United Water to proactively make major investments to the oldest underground water pipes that are most vulnerable and most likely to cause water main breaks, degradation in water quality and service disruptions. Several states – most recently New Jersey – followed Pennsylvania by enacting a similar program...
United Water supports Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act

United Water supports Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act

In support of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Act—legislation that would stimulate private sector investment in water infrastructure by modifying the tax code—United Water participated in a press event on June 2 alongside bill sponsors Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), who each emphasized the need for this change. In the background, United Water construction crews worked to replace a broken underground valve leading to a 24-inch main that provides water to Cliffside Park residents. When the crew reached the valve, a ten-foot high jet of water shot out of the ground, creating mayhem as businessmen and members of the press frantically scrambled to avoid being sprayed by the geyser. Ironically, this reaffirmed the need for increased investment in the nation’s water infrastructure. “It seems like every week a pipe bursts somewhere in New Jersey, destroying property and disrupting lives,” Sen. Menendez said. “We’ve under-invested in our infrastructure, certainly we’ve underinvested in water systems, and now we’re paying the price.  These systems are old and badly degraded.  Many of them are waiting to fail, and they need to be fixed.” The bill, which sponsors will propose alongside a highway funding act, would remove caps on issuing private activity bonds (PAB) for water and wastewater projects. It comes at a time when the American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s water infrastructure a D-rating, as some of it has been in place for almost a century. Passage of the bill would benefit local economies, both by providing jobs and by preventing unplanned infrastructure shutdowns that could disrupt commerce. “Our common sense solution not only invests in...
Water – we act locally and think globally

Water – we act locally and think globally

    Did you know that—at a global level-more than 780 million people do not have access to drinking water, and that more than 2.5 billion have to live without adequate sanitation? Also, approximately 6 to 8 million people die each year from water-related diseases. As part of a global company that provides essential life services, we act locally but maintain a global sense of responsibility for providing solutions to these challenges. Last week, our own Patrick Cairo, senior vice president of Corporate Development, led a discussion in Washington, DC to galvanize leaders around collective solutions for global water challenges in advance of International Water Week – to be held in Singapore in early June. Speakers highlighted the alarming facts and numbers behind water and sanitation around the world, stressing that the private sector has to be a key component in this battle; and agreeing that all sectors must be accountable for results. A speaker from the Millennium Challenge Corporation pointed out that partnering with a company like United Water – or in this case, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT—and making a water project “work” for private financing can provide solutions and bolster the local banking system. As an example, the speaker cited the Public-Private Partnership that invested in and expanded upon a wastewater treatment plant in Jordan. This is why United Water and its parent company Suez Environnement provide local authorities with public-private solutions, from water management to skills transfer, in order to combine quality of service with environmental performance and results. It is infinitely possible to make water projects work for both public and private sectors. Doing so will also...
We won’t settle for D+ grades

We won’t settle for D+ grades

  Providing clean and reliable water and environmental services is what we do at United Water. And like many of the over 50,000 water utilities and 16,000 wastewater utilities across the nation, public and environmental health is our duty. But to maintain the level of standards that our customers expect, we need to raise awareness of the challenges facing our aging water infrastructure. A panelist at an event hosted by The Value of Water Coalition in Washington DC this week said that the water industry may in fact be a victim of its own success. Despite many pipes being 90 – 100 years old, water service is pretty reliable. And major catastrophes involving water main breaks are not the norm – yet. A majority of Americans rightfully expect reliable service from their utilities. But many are unaware that this invaluable resource is in need of leadership; new ways of thinking about an old problem; and new financing approaches. In fact, only 40% of water customers make connection between strong water infrastructure & clean drinking water. It is no secret that our communities are now relying on aging infrastructure in need of repair or replacement. We know that American cities and towns collectively need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars – between $400 billion and $1 trillion– in their public water and sewer systems. We also know that because of deferred investment choices the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) currently grades the nation’s water infrastructure a “D+.” And we are not a D+ Nation. Investing in water infrastructure is not only important for our domestic use, but it is...