Aqua America coninues o expand in he energy-rich saes o Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, and he company acively seeks o sell waer o he oil and gas indusry.
In 2011, i enered ino a major join venure pipeline projec o rans-por millions o gallons o waer rom he Susquehanna River o hydraulic racuring (racking) sies in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania is booming wih gas drilling,” DeBenedicis old
in Ocober 2013. “And we’re he larges sup-plier or he gas indusry or waer.”
Aqua America’s join venure, however, has proved less proi-able han expeced. In 2013, a year afer he company eviced low-income amilies rom heir mobile home communiy o build he pumping saion or he pipeline,
i booked a ne loss on he projec, ciing a slowdown in drilling.
Afer rapid growh in he lae 1990s and early 2000s, Aqua America has seemingly lalined, wih lackluser expansions and srong public resisance o is rae hike plans. For ex-ample, public opposiion has apparenly scared he company ou o New York and Florida, where i sold is operaions in he ace o municipalizaion eﬀors and srong public scruiny o is raes and service.
Organized communiies have a real chance o win local public conrol o heir waer resources and o purchase heir sysems rom he company.
In 2013, afer a dynamic campaign by FLOW Florida, Aqua America pulled ou o he sae o Florida, selling is sysems o he Florida Governmenal Uiliy Auhoriy and oher eniies. Aqua Uiliies Florida, a subsidiary o Aqua America, had been he larges privae waer uiliy in Florida,
serving drink-ing waer o abou 60,000 people saewide in 2012.
Many cusomers were deeply dissaisied wih he company and re-pored chronic waer qualiy and cusomer service problems,
and hese cusomers paid some o he highes waer raes in he sae.
For a ypical household wihin a couny, using 5,000 gallons a monh, Aqua Uiliies charged 105 percen more han comparable publicly owned uiliies, which adds up o an exra $255 a year.
From 2007 o 2011, he company violaed drinking waer qualiy regulaions 76 imes and wasewaer regulaions 39 imes.
Many o he company’s cusomers complained ha he company’s waer was smelly, discolored, conaminaed and undrinkable.
From 2007 o 2011, he sae Public Service Commission received 767 cusomer complains abou Aqua Uiliies.
In 2011, he company was responsible or more han 40 percen o all waer and sewer complains iled wih he commission, and i received seven imes more complains han he regulaed waer uiliy wih he nex highes number.
Because o hese major issues, a coaliion o communiy groups rom 19 counies came ogeher and ormed FLOW Florida in early 2010. They encouraged residens o conac heir eleced oﬀicials and atend sae regulaory hearings o speak ou agains he company’s rae increases and services.
The communiy organizing paid oﬀ. In early 2012, in response o his consiuens’ ongoing problems wih Aqua Uiliies, sae senaor Alan Hays (R-Umailla) in-roduced a bill, in his words, “o sop uiliy companies and he Public Service Commission rom ripping oﬀ consumers.”
In he inal minues o he sae’s 2012 legislaive session, he legisla-ure unanimously passed an amended version o he bill ha creaed a sudy commitee on invesor-owned waer uiliies. I was he irs sep oward changing sae laws o bes proec consumers rom poor-perorming and high-cos privae waer uiliies.
Around his ime, in February 2012, he sae Public Service Commission cu he company’s auhorized reurn on equiy because o is “marginal” service qualiy.
“Try to remember that the shareholder is the boss. If you are doing something that
a year-to-year basis, you shouldn’t do it just to get bigger. You really have to come to the bottom line.”
Key Financial Figures (2013)
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Nicholas DeBenedicis Toal Compensaion: $3.2 million