PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Peoples Gas wants to form a public-private partnership with the city, but some worry that customers will lose control of their water and their rates.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Police Officer Richard Howe Dies Of COVID-19 Complications, City Says
The cornerstone of the plan is a futuristic water treatment plant to be built under the Highland Park Bridge, complete with a solar panel roof and state-of-the-art purification.
“The quality of the water this technology produces is a multiple of ten times cleaner than the current technology, which means, at the end of the day, we put a lot less chemicals in it so you and I can drink it,” Peoples Gas CEO Morgan O’Brien said.
To deliver that water, Peoples Gas would simply begin replacing aging mains and lead service lines while digging up the same city streets to replace its gas lines.
“The gas line becomes cheaper, the water line becomes cheaper if we do them together. The people in Pittsburgh pay both those bills. It’s the benefit of everybody,” O’Brien said.
But a coalition of environmental groups says the proposal is a little too good to be true.READ MORE: Pa. Supreme Court Says Gun Rights Groups Can Sue Municipalities That Enact Gun Safety Laws In Violation Of State's Preemption Laws
“It’s pretty easy to make a lot of promises when you want something, but we believe that any private, for-profit corporation is going to put their profit motive well above the people of Pittsburgh,” Adam Tuznik with Clean Water Action said.
Peoples Gas wants to form a public-private partnership with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, basically sharing control over the utility.
“This is not a partnership, this is privatization. There’s no debate about that,” Tuznik said.
Tuznik says while Peoples is promising to freeze rates for three years, the public will lose control thereafter.
Still, O’Brien says he can’t imagine the city turning him down.
“It’s a no-brainer. I look at alternatives and sit here and say I can’t imagine a better alternative. It fixes our problem and actually builds something that’s exciting for everyone,” he said.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Weather: Tornado Warnings Issued For Multiple Local Counties, Including Allegheny And Washington Counties
For his part, the mayor is waiting on a strategic plan from the PWSA and won’t consider this or any other outside proposals until that is completed.