Unlike other utilities such as electricity and natural gas, and unlike other states’ policies, Illinois allows the local officials who collect the water revenue also to set rates. ( / Chicago Tribune)
Originally pitched as an option for municipalities struggling with the high costs of maintaining water systems, the act drew criticism over fears that a private entity controls a basic human necessity. Rates sometimes rise significantly when a private company takes over a public system. Also, residents lament that they have no recourse.
“It seems like every time the bill comes up, more people are speaking out against it,” said state Rep. John Connor, a Joliet Democrat who was among those opposing it on Thursday. About 23,000 of his constituents are Illinois American Water customers and many say they oppose giving more power to the private water company, Connor said.
Illinois American Water spokesman Terry Mackin said the legislature’s intent was to extend and expand the original act.
“Utilizing this program is entirely a community’s choice,” Mackin said in an email Thursday. “A community’s leaders decide whether it wants to sell its water or wastewater assets to a private company.”