Today, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records denied Food & Water Watch’s appeal seeking to overturn the Buck County Water & Sewer Authority’s refusal to provide information about its dealings with Aqua Pennsylvania.
In early March, after hearing rumors that the BCWSA was in private talks with Aqua, Food & Water Watch requested copies of any presentation, draft proposal, unsolicited bid or other materials or communication from Aqua Pennsylvania or Essential Utilities from January 1, 2020 to present.
The Office of Open Records ruled that the documents would be confidential until the execution of a contract, but failed to respond to any of Food & Water Watch’s arguments for the release of the records. Their decision, which was delayed by months, comes two days after BCWSA approved an exclusivity agreement with Aqua Pennsylvania.
The entire process has been highly flawed. On Wednesday, the BCWSA Board voted on the exclusivity agreement even though it excluded it from the public agenda posted before the meeting, and it failed to notify the public that the vote was happening. The Board, however, did take the time to hold a private press briefing the day prior to the vote to discuss the agreement.
In response, Food & Water Watch Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer Ginny Marcille-Kerslake issued the following statement:
“What is the BCWSA Board trying to hide? The people of Bucks County have a fundamental right to know what is being discussed about the future of their sewer system. The entire privatization process has been shrouded in secrecy without public access to even basic information. The process has been flawed since its conception. Sewer privatization is not in the public interest and will sacrifice public control over an essential asset, leading to massive increases in bills for households and local businesses. The BCWSA Board must reject the sewer privatization deal.”