Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

United Water Fee Set for Upgrades

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

United Water Fee Set for Upgrades

Article excerpt

United Water has received state permission to impose a new fee on its 200,000 North Jersey customers to pay for major upgrades to more than 40 miles of old, leaky water pipes throughout Bergen and Hudson counties.

Some of the projects will begin soon, but the fee, which would top out at $1.77 per month -- or $21.24 per year -- for the typical residential customer would not start showing up on water bills at least until the middle of next year. The fee will be in effect for five years.

The fee, called a distribution system improvement charge, is a new tool introduced by the state Board of Public Utilities to accelerate a backlog of desperately needed upgrades to the state's aging water infrastructure.

Some of the water main sections that United Water plans to replace date to the 1880s. The utility's 2,200 miles' worth of mains are so leaky that the company routinely loses a quarter of all water that it treats before it ever gets to a customer.

The region experiences on average more than one water main break a day. Repairing breaks on an emergency basis costs up to 10 times more than repairs that have been planned, industry experts say. Over the past five years, United Water has had more than 2,100 water main breaks, which disrupt traffic and cause customers to cope with low water pressure and boil-water alerts.

"It is an aging system that has become more vulnerable over time," said Jim Glozzy, United Water's vice president and general manager. "This program will expedite repairs, enhance service quality to our customers, reduce water lost through leaks and save money in the long run."

$50 million over 5 years

The fee is expected to raise roughly $50 million over the next five years. That, combined with the money the company includes in its regular operating budget for infrastructure repairs, will amount to $85 million in water main and valve improvements over the five- year period. …

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