Salem Residents File Petitions to Challenge Water Sale

Petition drive in NJ town aims to put water system sale up for a public vote

Published May 25, 2023


Clean Water

Petition drive in NJ town aims to put water system sale up for a public vote

Petition drive in NJ town aims to put water system sale up for a public vote

On Thursday morning, Salem City residents submitted petition signatures to challenge the City Council’s proposal to sell off the publicly-owned drinking water system. 

The signatures were collected after months of grassroots organizing. Local residents held informational sessions and went door to door to collect the number of signatures necessary to put the matter up to a public vote. 

“Our goal is to protect, conserve and preserve the Salem water/sewer system. We should not be so quick to sell our problems. Water is our most precious natural resource and our water/sewer system belongs to our entire community, including those surrounding communities that draw from our streams,” said Salem City resident Janice Roots. “We have to work together to resolve our quality and quantity issues, and produce clean, safe water in order to keep the stakeholders of our system thriving for the benefit of present and future generations. The community has spoken.”

The state’s Water Infrastructure Protection Act (WIPA) grants municipalities the power, under certain circumstances, to sell off public assets without getting the approval of residents. The petition drive seeks to restore the democratic rights of Salem City residents to have a voice in this process. 

“Keep the city’s last valuable resource in the citizens’ hands and not in the hands of the corrupt Salem City council to sell it,” said Salem City resident Leon Daniels.

For months, rumors had been circulating about a possible sale. The Salem City Council finally announced early this year that they would be exploring a privatization deal under the provisions of WIPA. Opponents of the move argue that privatization leads to steep rate increases, reduced service, the loss of local jobs, and an overall loss of local control.

“We have seen towns across New Jersey – and the country – learn the hard way that water privatization is a bad deal for residents and local businesses. There are better options available to towns that do not require them to surrender control over valuable public infrastructure,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Kate Delany. “This grassroots movement is about preserving public control and empowering residents. It is a victory for democracy.” 

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Press Contact: Peter Hart [email protected]