Chester Water Authority Increases Customer Rates with Complete Lack of Transparency

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Op-Ed by Marc A. Lucca, Aqua Pennsylvania President

Chester Water Authority (CWA) customers, did you know your water bills are going up? Do you expect better service or improved water quality with those increased rates?

On January 20, 2022, CWA quietly approved a customer rate increase during its board meeting with a total lack of transparency. Only one day prior to that meeting, offering virtually no opportunity for customer review and participation, CWA published a brief agenda, with no attachments, which only included a vague reference to the request to increase customer rates.

It is concerning to me, and should be to all CWA customers, that no additional details were offered during that meeting, no comprehensive staff presentation was shared, and no public discussion occurred, as presumably no customers knew about the topic.

CWA customers deserve to know details of what is included in their rates and the identity and role of consultants with whom the CWA works. For example, to my knowledge, there has been no information provided surrounding the costs of legal, engineering and water quality consultants. Customers should know where their money is going. What are the consultants used for? How much are they paid? What is their scope of work and term of contract?

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It is my understanding Right-to-Know Requests were issued to CWA requesting documents containing this type of information that CWA has refused to answer for over 650 days (and counting). What is CWA hiding?

The lack of publicly available information, staff presentations, board discussion or customer participation is shocking, and surprising given the board’s significant action increasing customer rates. By way of comparison, any rate adjustment that Aqua Pennsylvania requests by law must include an application to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, typically including thousands of pages of detailed information and more than six public meetings, for the purpose of carefully assessing whether the proposed increase is reasonable and in the public interest.

CWA unabashedly preaches transparency and a customer-first mantra, but its actual conduct displays the complete opposite.

When I attended the last CWA meeting, I asked very pointed questions on this topic, none of which were answered. Instead, CWA’s solicitor said he “would get back to me.” Not surprisingly, and unfortunately, all that was instead received was a letter from one of CWA’s several lawyers which did not substantively answer even one of my questions.

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It is my hope that additional information and knowledge of how the board came to this decision is made public for the sake of all customers. At the very least, CWA customers should ask the CWA board to explain in detail what is included in its rates. Readers can visit AquaForChester.com to learn more.

Marc A. Lucca is the President of Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc. Aqua Pennsylvania serves approximately 1.5 million people in 32 counties throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Visit AquaAmerica.com for more information or follow Aqua on Facebook at facebook.com/MyAquaAmerica and on Twitter at @MyAquaAmerica.

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