PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Protesters from the ‘Our Water Campaign’ rallied near Peoples Gas headquarters on Wednesday to protest what they say is Peoples’ plan to purchase and privatize the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, a claim the company quickly denied.
“They want to own the water system and the infrastructure, so they can profit from it,” said the Rev. Vincent Kolb, a Presbyterian pastor with the Our Water Campaign.
“Water, as was said, is a public good and a human right, not a commodity; and therefore, PWSA must remain controlled and accountable to the people of Pittsburgh,” noted Allegheny County Councilwoman Anita Prizio.
Despite significant criticism of the Water Authority, speakers insisted the Authority is improving on its own.
“We have been critical of PWSA over the last several years regarding its exceedance of the lead action level, its partial line replacements, its operations and communication with the ratepayers,” said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, with Women for a Healthy Environment. “But I am here today to tell you that we have seen a significant, positive change in the Authority over the last year.”
But some companies like Peoples think they can help.
Peoples Gas officials say they do want to have a relationship with the city of Pittsburgh and the PWSA, but it’s not to take it over and privatize it.
They want a partnership, Peoples spokesperson Barry Kukovich told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Delano: “Does Peoples want to buy the PWSA?”
Kukovich: “No, we don’t. We don’t want to privatize the PWSA. We do want to form some kind of genuine partnership to work together to try to solve Pittsburgh’s water problems.”
Peoples wants a 50-50 public-private partnership where Peoples builds a new water treatment facility and replaces old water lines as it replaces gas lines.
“Our pipelines are in the same trenches as the water pipelines. There’s great synergy there. Instead of tearing up a street twice, we could do it once.”
“It would be a perfect way to save money for the people of Pittsburgh,” notes Kukovich.
Mayor Peduto has asked the PWSA for a 12-year plan by Fall for a 21st century water system.
Whether that includes Peoples or other companies remains to be seen.