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U.S. Water Hits the Ground Running
in Camden with Early Success

CAMDEN, NJ, March 25In February, U.S. Water L.L.C. started a 20 year contract to operate the water treatment and distribution system and wastewater collection system of Camden, New Jersey. In the few weeks since then, Camden Water L.L.C. (US Water), has compiled resolved employees’ labor concerns, responded to nearly 200 customer requests, repaired sewer collapses, and initiated repairs to pump stations.

The Camden project, serving a population of more than 54,000 for water and 87,000 for wastewater collection, adds to US Water’s list of over 30 clients in New Jersey. The agreement includes a $20 million concession payment from US Water in the first year, which will beis earmarked by the City for infrastructure improvements to the water and sewer system. The City has committed a minimum of $40 million over the next 20 years for in capital improvements to the aging system. US Water will also make annual concession payments will also be made by US Waterto the City, beginning in the second year of the agreement.

The public-private partnership agreement will provide Camden with vastly improved water services at lower cost and help the City pay for needed infrastructure and capital improvements.

"This partnership agreement represents the quickest and surest path to providing clean drinking water to the Camden community," said Michael Belsante, President & CEO of US Water. "In our first month on the job, Camden Water has already been very active in our efforts to maintain and improve both the infrastructure of the system and our relationship with our customers and employees."

The highlights of the agreement are as follows:

  • The City retains ownership of the water and sewer infrastructure, while allowing US Water to operate and manage it at significantly lower cost.
  • The City will stabilize its water and sewer rates.

The stabilization of rates, made possible by US Water’s ability to control operational costs, is in sharp contrast to the more than 100 percent water and sewer rate increases that customers experienced under public operation during the past ten years.

By containing what had been rapidly increasing operational costs, the City of Camden will now be able to conduct intensive and needed infrastructure investment that it could not have afforded otherwise.

US Water offered employment with equivalent or better salary and benefits to all existing utility workers, and gave generous compensation packages to those who chose not to transfer to US Water. The company is working closely with the local union. It will not lay off any employees for economic reasons. Employees who join US Water will receive training and career advancement opportunities far beyond what was available to them through City employment.

In fewer than two months Camden Water (US Water) has:

Better Quality Water

...begun planning an early spring flushing of the City’s entire water system. This will help improve the quality of water being provided through the distribution system to customers.

Happier Employees

...worked with officials of the employees’ union, Camden County Council #10, to accommodate labor’s suggestions. For example, the primary request of employees was to establish fixed shifts so that they could work on a regular, consistent schedule. As a result, Camden Water changed the way workers’ shifts are scheduled, allowing employees to work fixed shifts based on their preferred shift. Previously, employees worked floating shifts, making it hard to plan personal and family activities.

Better Protected Ronald McDonald House Against Fire

...finalized repairs to the water main at the Ronald McDonald House. The facility had been waiting many months for a repair that would enable the building’s 6-inch main to tap into a 10-inch main, and then finally into a 12-inch main in order to provide adequate fire protection for the building. Camden Water initiated repair activities within the company’s first few weeks of operations, and expects to complete the multi-phase project within a week or two. As part of the initial phase, Camden Water had to close down Mickle Boulevard. We did so on a weekend to minimize traffic disruption. Camden Police were brought on board to direct traffic, and at the time complimented Camden Water staff on their traffic control abilities and the smoothness of the operation.

Rapidly Assisted Customers

...received and responded to approximately 170 customer complaints regarding water and sewer problems. Camden Water staff has handled water requests involving emergency water shut-offs including service shut-offs to vacant buildings that were missing water pipes, final meter readings, and the repair and replacement of existing meters. Camden Water staff also handled sewer system complaints involving clogs in vents, laterals, and mains. Staff has cleaned storm drains and replaced numerous missing manhole and inlet covers.

On the Job Safety Training

...conducted three weeks of safety training programs for staff who were previously employed by the City of Camden. Specific courses taught focused on protecting worker’s health, CPR/First Aid, and Confined Space and Excavation. This training is necessary for entering confined spaces, such as water and sewer collapses. Personnel at the Morris-Delair Water Treatment Facility received training in the safe handling of chemicals and other materials used to improve water quality. Camden Water will conduct ongoing training courses for its employees.

In an effort to improve public safety, Camden Water has replaced three defective fire hydrants.

Camden Water is a division of U.S. Water L.L.C., a partnership between United Utilities and Bechtel. US Water operates, maintains, and manages municipal and industrial water and wastewater systems, and provides related services in billing and collection, design, construction management and financing. The company was founded in New Jersey, where it maintains its operational and customer service headquarters and its largest regional office. US Water’s corporate headquarters is located in Bolingbrook, Ill., with additional regional offices in North Carolina and Massachusetts. US Water currently serves 72 facilities, including 34 in New Jersey. The company has, with more than 17 years of operations experience with municipal and industrial customers, more water and wastewater experience in the Garden State than any other company.