A bill working its way through the state legislature would make it easier for private companies to buy public water systems.
Some believe it would be a better option for municipalities, while opponents of the bill say they want their water kept in the hands of local governments.
“This is a horrible idea,” says Lindsay Dorff of Green Bay.
Dorff is a mother of two young boys who says her children’s health could be at risk if legislation that eases restrictions on private companies looking to buy municipal water systems passes.
“I think it’s that question of accountability that’s really scary,” says Dorff.
Lindsay and her husband Ned say easier privatization could lead to less accountability and decreased water quality.
“I would like to know that if there’s an issue with my water, I can call the water utility and actually have a conversation with people who live in this community and drink the water just like we do,” says Ned Dorff.
Assembly Bill 554 has already passed.
Its Senate companion SB 432 will go for a full floor vote later this month.
“I’m asking my Republican colleagues as part of their future legacy to do the right thing and do not make it easier for a company like Aqua America from Pennsylvania to come here and buy up our water,” says State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay.
Senator Hansen says Aqua America is the company pushing through the Republican-authored bills.
Aqua America gave a statement to Local 5 News reading in part, “Senate Bill 432 would offer a solution for municipalities across the state to partner with a regulated water utility such as Aqua America to enable infrastructure improvements, system growth for economic development opportunities, and reliable service to the community.”
“This just gives another option to local governments who own a water utility that may want to get out of that business,” says State Sen. Co-sponsor Frank Lasee, R-De Pere.
While Senator Lasee says companies like Aqua America have implemented cost-saving measures for consumers, Senator Hansen says it’s been at the expense of water quality.
“They’ve had cases where the water is discolored, it’s not tasting very good, it’s smelly,” explains Hansen.
With the water crisis in Flint just next door, Dorff says that even though it was a government controlled utility with private appointees in charge of it, it puts water quality and accountability at the front of his mind.
“To put cost and profit above families’ health is frightening to me,” says Dorff.
Aqua America currently operates water utilities in eight states, including Illinois.
The Senate could vote on the bill as early as next week.