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Rivers Alliance of CT Priority Topics

Priority Topics

River Alliance of CT > Priority Topics > Water Infrastructure 

Water Infrastructure

2017

2016


Water Infrastructure Archives                                                                                 Back to Priority Topics


2017


River Alliance of CT > Priority Topics > Water Infrastructure

Oct 13, 2017

Water Utility Secrecy Still Extreme

Public Still Denied Right to Know How Much Water Is Held Where

Public Act 17-211, AAC Access to Water Planning Information, appeared to restore to the public most of their traditional rights to access information about their water utilities’ use of public water.  In 2003, water utilities and the Department of Public Health pushed through draconian security laws.  In these years, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, security was sweeping but little analyzed for effectiveness.  Reservoirs were blurred out on state maps (but not Google Earth), locations of water mains were secret until pipe ruptures and mini-floods made the locations all too obvious; the size and depth of reservoirs were blacked out in utility documents but still available in fishing guides, and so forth.  As the law was interpreted from 2003 to 2017, no member of the public could be privy to a utility’s available water or margins of safety for its various sources. 

Public Act 17-211, the product of two years’ negotiation, was supposed to restore common sense to security provisions.  Under this new law, lots of material can still be kept secret but the basic data essential to water planning and management was assumed to be freed up.  Apparently not.  As of this writing, the Department of Public Health (DPH) is continuing to withhold vital data in the water supply plan of the Metropolitan District Commission (the Hartford-region water utility).  Valerie Rossetti of Save Our Water (based in Bloomfield), who years ago requested to see this plan, reports that maps have been removed along with all descriptions of safe-yield calculations and other relevant information.  At the Water Planning Council’s meeting on October 5, DPH member Lori Mathieu announced that she had received legal advice that all redactions approved in the past by the Freedom of Information Commission under the old law were still in effect.  Most of these requests under the old law were filed by Rivers Alliance and the results were heavily redacted, largely useless documents.        

The advocates for transparency in utility operations accepted a number of painful compromises in the 2017 law in exchange for pledges of reasonable access to information needed for understanding the operations of one’s utility.  The viability and credibility of the Draft State Water Plan hinges on such access.  Rivers Alliance will continue to pursue this cause.

Link to example of redacted document in Rivers Alliance's bill testimony. 

Link to CT General Assembly webpage documenting legislative action on Public Act 17-211


River Alliance of CT > Priority Topics > Water Infrastructure

Sep 22, 2017

Eversource - Aquarion Merger Now Under Consideration at PURA 

Public comments were closed Sep 22. Rivers Alliance requested more time for public information and input.

Eversource energy company announced on June 3 that it is buying Aquarion water company from Macquarie Bank of Australia for $1.675 billion. Eversource (formerly named Northeast Utilities) supplies power regionally, including to most of Connecticut. Aquarion (formerly Kelda, formerly Bridgeport Hydraulic) is the largest private water company in the region and dominates supply in western Connecticut. Residents in that area will now be served by a single private utility for power and water. Some of Eversource's recent practices have not been friendly to the environment, including the extensive clear-cutting it is doing in its transmission rights of way. Approval of the merger is in the hands of utility regulators.  Click here for a map of Aquarion's existing and claimed service areas in Connecticut.

All docket documents can be found here, including comments from Rivers Alliance

If you would like to stay involved, our email is rivers@riversalliance.org  tel. is 860-361-9349. 

Excerpts from a message sent by Rivers Alliance to members:

Is this good for the waters of Connecticut?  Is it good for customers?  This is a unique utility structure in Connecticut.  There has been virtually no public discussion. Below are some things to consider.

The power provider Eversource is buying the water utility Aquarion for $1.7 billion from Macquarie Bank of Australia.   Aquarion possesses or has claimed exclusive service areas throughout the state but primarily in western Connecticut, from Bridgeport up to Morris, Goshen, and beyond.  Residents who now get their electricity via Eversource and their water from Aquarion will be served by a very large, single, privately owned utility.  This is a new utility structure for Connecticut. 
 
It is difficult to say whether the proposed acquisition is good or bad because it has been essentially undebated.  A docket on the acquisition has been open at PURA for many weeks.  But few state officials or citizens have been aware of the issue or process. Utilities have asked that significant filings of information be withheld from the public.   Major questions have been left unanswered. For example:

Is it our state policy to encourage large combined utilities?  Does it matter if they are public or private?  Should the regulatory structure for water and power be made the same?  In a merger of two different types of utilities, how will corporate goals be determined?  In areas where the interests of power and water providers intersect and sometimes conflict, who will be the decider?   Such areas include: water supply for cooling power plants; power or fuel lines over or in state-protected drinking water lands (these protections have been under attack in recent years); hydropower impoundments that limit wellfield potential downstream; and more.  
 
Under a recently revived state law, any new venture requiring public water (e.g., a restaurant, school, senior center, subdivision) must first be reviewed and approved by a regional Water Utility Coordinating Committee (WUCC). In the western Connecticut WUCC, Aquarion is the dominant member.  So, will there be one-stop shopping for new ventures?  Or a less coordinated system?  What’s best?  … 
 
We are  worried by the dearth of analysis, information, and education available to the public on this consequential utility acquisition.  We urge that citizens and officials be given more time to consider the salient questions, especially those involving different supply interests (water supply and electricity supply) under a single corporate owner.  Is laissez-faire the right approach?  Should it be laissez-fair forever?  Should there ever be an opportunity for reconsideration? Rivers Alliance wants to see state waters strongly protected. 

Most of the substantive material in the docket were in the form of answers from the companies to "Interrogatories", which are sets of questions from PURA, DEEP's Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy, and the Office Of Consumer Counsel.

When asked to describe how the merger will promote conservation, energy efficiency and sustainability, Eversource replied "The Eversource energy efficiency programs have been effective and have achieved success in all of these areas, including water efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, sustainability, environmental stewardship and climate change" and "Eversource will work closely with Aquarion to assess current energy efficiency measures in place at Aquarion and identify other potential opportunities."

Question: "How will Eversource utilize its knowledge and experience to bring conservation and efficiency to infrastructure upgrades?" Extract from their answer: "...the Company has deployed numerous strategies including financial incentives to reduce demands, seeking load-shedding strategies amongst large users, rebate programs, among other measures." "With the advent of water conservation legislation in 2013, barriers to conservation in the water sector have been eliminated and Aquarion will look to leverage Eversource’s experiences in energy conservation to put forth similarly effective programs for its water utility." 

Question: "Describe how the acquisition will benefit Aquarion in critical response activities, such as preparing for and responding to catastrophic storms or droughts".  Extract from their answer: "The level of preparedness and event-management capability that can be added to Aquarion’s own resources and expertise is substantial and will represent an important benefit of the transaction.  Aquarion will be positioned to leverage the resources and expertise that Eversource has in dealing with larger-scale emergencies to maintain and enhance Aquarion’s own critical-response activities."

Here are links to some other interesting docket items: 

Time Schedule for Docket No. 17-06-30 and the Close of Hearing announcement, do not actually refer to a closing date for public comments. Thank you PURA staff for clarifying it was Friday Sep 22. Only one public comment was listed in the docket as of Sep 19, two hours before the usual 4:00pm deadline there were 4 more.

Aquarion Water Company of CT Systems Served lists 70 systems, their water production and consumption for the past two years lists 68 systems.

We will let you know if PURA extends the comment period.


River Alliance of CT > Priority Topics > Water Infrastructure

Sep 19, 2017

From a Sep 19 email to our members:
Eversource power is buying Aquarion water company.

Is this good for the waters of Connecticut?  Is it good for customers?  This is an unique utility structure in Connecticut.  There has been virtually no public discussion.
 
There is a docket open at PURA (Public Utility Regulatory Authority) number 17-06-30.  The deadline for comment is this Friday, September 22, 2017.  Few citizens or elected officials have commented so far. 
 
Below are some things to consider. It’s long.  Sorry.  Below that, are our instructions on how to file a comment. PURA's instructions are here.  Please use at will and/or contact us with questions or help.  We will hand deliver comments if need be. 

Our email is rivers@riversalliance.org  tel. is 860-361-9349. PURA, also, has offered to be helpful.  Best contact is Tyra.Peluso@ct.gov
 

Considerations:

The power provider Eversource is buying the water utility Aquarion for $1.7 billion from Macquarie Bank of Australia.   Aquarion possesses or has claimed exclusive service areas throughout the state but primarily in western Connecticut, from Bridgeport up to Morris, Goshen, and beyond.  Residents who now get their electricity via Eversource and their water from Aquarion will be served by a very large, single, privately owned utility.  This is a new utility structure for Connecticut. 
 
It is difficult to say whether the proposed acquisition is good or bad because it has been essentially undebated.  A docket on the acquisition has been open at PURA for many weeks.  But few state officials or citizens have been aware of the issue or process. Utilities have asked that significant filings of information be withheld from the public.   Major questions have been left unanswered. For example:

Is it our state policy to encourage large combined utilities?  Does it matter if they are public or private?  Should the regulatory structure for water and power be made the same?  In a merger of two different types of utilities, how will corporate goals be determined?  In areas where the interests of power and water providers intersect and sometimes conflict, who will be the decider?   Such areas include: water supply for cooling power plants; power or fuel lines over or in state-protected drinking water lands (these protections have been under attack in recent years); hydropower impoundments that limit wellfield potential downstream; and more.  
 
Under a recently revived state law, any new venture requiring public water (e.g., a restaurant, school, senior center, subdivision) must first be reviewed and approved by a regional Water Utility Coordinating Committee (WUCC). In the western Connecticut WUCC, Aquarion is the dominant member.  So, will there be one-stop shopping for new ventures?  Or a less coordinated system?  What’s best?  … 
 
We are  worried by the dearth of analysis, information, and education available to the public on this consequential utility acquisition.  We urge that citizens and officials be given more time to consider the salient questions, especially those involving different supply interests (water supply and electricity supply) under a single corporate owner.  Is laissez-faire the right approach?  Should it be laissez-fair forever?  Should there ever be an opportunity for reconsideration? Rivers Alliance wants to see state waters strongly protected. 

How to Comment at PURA on docket number 17-06-30.

You have to register on their website, and comments have to be have to be in a Word or PDF document that you have prepared ahead of time. If you have used their system before, you can skip to step 2.

  1. Here is a link to the Web Filing main page that describes how to register with PURA.  If you go there, choose the link you will see under "Step 2" to create a new account. You will get an email to complete the registration process.
     
  2. Once you are registered with PURA, you can log in here
     
  3. After registering and logging in, try this link to go directly to the form to fill in to submit correspondence regarding this docket, skipping a couple steps described below. This link may not work on all web browsers though. If it does work, skip to our Submission Page Instructions (step 5) below.
     
  4. If the link above (step 3) does not work for you, go to the general docket submission webpage.  On that page, you have to fill in the docket number 17-06-30 and make sure the title “JOINT APPLICATION OF EVERSOURCE ENERGY AND MACQUARIE UTILITIES INC. FOR APPROVAL OF A CHANGE OF CONTROL” shows up automatically in the title field. Then choose “Correspondence” from the “Choose Type of Filing” drop-down list. An alert box should pop up that asks “Would you like to create a new Correspondence for Docket 17-06-30?” Click “OK.”  If that box does not show up, you may have disable your pop-up blocker for that website, then try again.
     
  5. Submission Page Instructions: On the submission page, your identification information should be pre-filled in. On this page, be sure to put a brief summary of your comments in the text box labeled “Description” because it may help future searches. At the bottom of the page is an upload button to submit your pre-written MS Word or PDF document. 
     
  6. Did it work? Check the list of documents on the PURA docket website. This list is arranged alphabetically, so your "Correspondence" should be near the beginning of the list. Comments typically show up later in the day they were posted, but if you submitted it late in an afternoon, they may not be able to process it until the next business day. 

Need help? Feel free to contact Rivers Alliance: rivers@riversalliance.org, 860-361-9349. PURA, also, has offered to be helpful.  Best contact is Tyra.Peluso@ct.gov


2016

River Alliance of CT > Priority Topics > Water Infrastructure

Lost Water in Middletown

On October 26, one million gallons of drinking water spilled in about one hour from a burst water main in Middletown off Silvermine Road near the Connecticut Juvenile Training Center and the Connecticut Valley Hospital. The 24-inch pipe conveys water from reserve tanks of the Roth Water Treatment Plant (processing water from the Roth Wellfield) for wide distribution as part of a wide distribution system. The pre-dawn water main break forced the cutoff of water for Middlesex Hospital, service area schools, residences, and businesses. The leak was plugged before the end of the day, but water quality was affected for several days. As of November 9, the only relatively authoritative explanation, offered by Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew, was that during a power outage the previous week, valves closed suddenly, putting pressure on a segment of the main, which cracked and eventually broke during a morning high-demand time. Numerous questions remain, including why the system did not have the resiliency to deal with a relatively minor power outage.

River Alliance of CTT > Priority Topics > Water Infrastructure >