BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER MAINS: Hoboken and SUEZ Announce Formation of Public Water Utility, New Service Contract
(ABOVE:Photo via Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla)
Hoboken’s notoriously bad water infrastructure may see a massive upgrade, thanks to a proposed new contract between the City and service provider SUEZ Water—hopefully marking the end of what has been a costly and contentious debate, as debilitating water main breaks become all too routine.
Water Main Break reported in #Hoboken at 1st & Garden.
Residents without water—no word yet from @SUEZwaterNJ on restoration.@CityofHoboken pic.twitter.com/YZSFGgSR2u
— hMAG (@hMAG) April 3, 2019
Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla announced earlier today that the City of Hoboken and SUEZ have agreed to a new water service contract that would invest at least $33 million in water infrastructure upgrades through 2034. The new contract, which remains subject to City Council approval on Wednesday, establishes a new public water utility that includes an average of $2.2 million in water investments per year—over six times the amount of the current contract.
“This contract with SUEZ provides for unprecedented investments in Hoboken’s water system,” said Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla. “Hoboken has been suffering for years with increasing water main breaks due to a previous, woefully inadequate contract that provides for no proactive water main upgrades. The renegotiated agreement will finally allow Hoboken to make the critical upgrades to our water infrastructure that have been badly needed for years. I am hopeful the Council will agree and vote in support at Wednesday’s Council meeting.”
The agreement with the City and SUEZ calls for the establishment of a new water utility, where the revenue from the bulk water consumption would be reinvested by the City into water main upgrades as part of a public water utility. While the water system would no longer be operated as a private water concession, SUEZ would continue to maintain and operate the water system.
“Our new contract and improved partnership with SUEZ allows Hoboken to reclaim most of our water revenues and self-fund all necessary improvements to our aging water system,” said Hoboken Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher. “This is a great outcome for Hoboken and I will encourage my City Council colleagues to approve this new contract.”
Looming legal battles between the two entities have long left the future of Hoboken’s infrastructure—which includes pipes from the 1890’s—hanging perilously in the balance.
Indeed! @PeterGleick Check out the date on this water pipe fixture from Hoboken: timestamp 1897! @UnitedWaterNJ pic.twitter.com/1BhQErel9S
— SUEZ North America (@SUEZ_NA) August 16, 2013
The City says the new agreement was based largely upon the framework of the initial SUEZ negotiations led by former Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her administration in 2017.
“I am pleased that Mayor Bhalla’s administration and SUEZ have agreed to a revised contract that provides critical funding for annual water main investments,” said Mayor Zimmer. “This achievement is the culmination of negotiations begun by my Administration and completed by Mayor Bhalla. Thank you to the many public servants from both of our Administrations who worked so hard to make this happen.”
For their part, SUEZ claims to be on board with the devolution of control, while still maintaining a service agreement with the City.
“SUEZ is proud to continue its partnership with the City of Hoboken and to be part of the critical transformation of its water system,” said Chris Riat from SUEZ Water. “Our priority, as well as the City’s, has always been ensuring the safety and reliability of the residents’ drinking water. We look forward to working with the City to modernize Hoboken’s infrastructure for years to come.”