inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

In New Hanover, Reports of Smelly, Sediment-Filled Water on Aqua Lines

New Hanover residents in Montgomery County have been reporting significant water problems coming from their Aqua PA-owned water system in recent months, including foul smells and drinking water full of sediment.

The problem has grown so acute that earlier this month, Aqua PA and New Hanover hosted a joint town meeting to address the ongoing concerns over the town’s water supply.

A list of resident-submitted questions for the meeting reveals broad unhappiness with the town’s water quality:

  • “Why is my next-door neighbor not having brown water if I am?”
  • “Why should I be required to install sediment filters in my house if I am buying what should be drinking water?”
  • “What is the timeframe for having a better quality of water?”
  • “Is it safe to drink? It has a foul taste.”

In many cases, Aqua provided the same stock response to the inquiries: “We routinely test the water, and it continues to meet regulatory requirements.”

Residents at the meeting were far from satisfied with Aqua’s handling of the water system. And they let the company know it. “The water explodes out of the faucet, and it tastes crappy,” one resident told company and township officials, according to a report in the Pottstown Mercury.

“When I first turn on the shower, it smells awful. It has a rotten egg or sewer smell,” another said.

The embarrassing debacle comes as Aqua has faced withering criticism from residents in the Delaware Valley and beyond amid its ongoing efforts to buy local water systems.

Matt Miller, director of water quality and environmental compliance at Aqua PA, told DVJournal the company has been addressing complaints of water quality in the area since December 2021.

“We got a specialized flushing rig in immediately [after hearing the complaints],” Miller said. “It comes in with a truck and is able to do high-velocity flushing in the system. We took a look at a well in the area that’s the primary source for the neighborhood. We did some work to essentially raise the well pump and grout out the well bottom.”

Miller said the company continued to address sporadic reports of sediment in drinking water throughout 2022, with Aqua doing grout repairs to the area well in November of last year. The company had no further complaints until March of this year, he said.

The forum, he said, went well, with Aqua representatives setting up appointments with residents to go address their complaints at their homes.

“We feel like we’re in a good place now,” he said.

The company, whose parent corporation Essential Utilities manages wastewater and natural gas in eight states, has acquired multiple water systems in Pennsylvania in the wake of Act 12. That is the 2016 law which made it easier for private companies to buy municipal water networks.

Grassroots efforts like Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts (NOPE) have risen up to push back against efforts by Aqua and other companies to buy those systems, with NOPE and other residents spearheading resistance in locations including Bucks County, Willistown, Delaware County, and elsewhere.

NOPE’s Twitter handle—”@StopAquaPA”—reflects the group’s original aim to counter Aqua’s acquisition efforts in the area.

But the grassroots effort—which has chapters in multiple locations around the Delaware Valley—has expanded to push back against other companies as well. Towamencin’s NOPE chapter led a successful effort last month to change the township’s governance to home rule. The issue that drove the change was a sewer sale to NextEra Energy and Pennsylvania-American Water Company.

Towamencin officials have nevertheless stated their intent to continue ahead with the sale even after the charter ostensibly forbids them from doing so.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

DelVal Stores Sell Out of Bottled Water in Wake of Chemical Spill

Cellphones screamed an alarm Sunday afternoon telling local residents there was a water contamination problem in Philadelphia. And although city authorities walked back the warning later that day, it did not prevent hordes of frantic shoppers from heading to stores to stock up on bottled water.

With many Philadelphia shops quickly emptied of bottled water, Philadelphia and suburban residents alike are converging on local Delaware Valley stores.

Residents have been posting on Facebook that various stores in the area are out of bottled water.

Hallie Levant said on Elkins Park Happenings that the Acme in Jenkintown was out of water when she went on Sunday.

“Costco was a nightmare today,” a Bensalem woman posted on Facebook. “I managed to get a few cases, but it was all out by the time I checked out. People were running around like maniacs. I literally felt like this was COVID all over again.”

Rich Case, who manages the Costco in Montgomeryville, said on Monday that “a lot of people came out for water. They wiped us out in our first hour.”

Case said he did not know whether the surge of customers came from Philadelphia or the suburbs. But the manager told the Delaware Valley Journal that another truckload of bottled water would arrive soon.

Dana Ward, a spokesperson for Acme, told DVJournal: “ACME Markets is aware of the continued Water Warning in Philadelphia. All of our stores throughout the region, including our 17 locations within the City of Philadelphia, have water available for purchase for our customers.

“We are continuing to closely monitor the situation and will continue to deliver additional water to our stores as needed.”

On the Berwyn Neighbors Facebook page, residents reassured each other that their water does not come from the Delaware River, where the stream where the Bristol chemical spill happened flows.

“I would worry more about the lawn chemicals people use that run off into the tributaries to our reservoir,” resident Kate McAllister wrote.

Jeff Brown, the Philadelphia mayoral candidate who owns some area ShopRite stores, said on Twitter: “My wife Sandy has emergency trailer load quantities of bottled water to all our Philly ShopRite and The Fresh Grocer locations.

“Don’t panic, we will do whatever is necessary to make sure all of Philly has clean drinking water,” he wrote.

The Philadelphia Water Department said on its website officials are confident that tap water from the Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant will remain safe to drink and use at least through 11:59 p.m. Monday. That assurance was due to the treatment and continuous testing of water that is currently available to residents. The department also assured the public it would continue testing the water.


Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or



Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts Fights Aqua PA Bid to Buy BCWSA

The message was simple: Just say NOPE to Aqua PA’s bid to buy the Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority’s sewer system for $1.1 billion.

It was expressed during a Neighbors Opposing Privatization Efforts (NOPE) virtual town hall meeting last Thursday. It was a response to the authority’s July 13 vote to give Aqua one year of exclusive rights to buy its sewer system and recommended it as the purchaser.

Aqua PA officials welcomed that development.

“We look forward to discussing the merits of the transaction to BCWSA customers and employees in the coming weeks,” said Essential Utilities Chairman and CEO Christopher Franklin.

Not so fast, NOPE members say. They are marshaling their forces to speak out at the next BCWSA meeting on Wednesday and a future meeting of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners meeting. They say the sale will hurt customers by increasing their costs.

“We just have to get the word out,” said NOPE co-founder David McMahon of Norristown. “Once people are aware this (privatization) is in their future, they rally.”

McMahon says Aqua is not buying the Bucks County sewer infrastructure as much as it is buying the system’s customers. Those customers will keep paying for the water and sewer services forever.

The state legislature passed Act 12 in 2016 which permitted private companies to purchase publicly owned utilities at “fair market” value and to recover the costs through their rates. That set off a feeding frenzy of private-sector acquisitions of public water systems.

Unlike publicly owned utilities, private companies can charge their customers for the cost of the purchase in addition to the cost of the sewer or water service. They also must make a profit.

BCWSA customers aren’t just in Bucks County. They can also be found in Upper Dublin and Springfield in Montgomery County and West Vincent in Chester County.

“It’s really distressing how much power Aqua has,” said Mahon.

Bill Ferguson, co-founder of Keep water Affordable, says the recent acquisitions all have the same problem. The private companies purchasing the assets “add no value and extract large profits,” he said. “The customers should have the right to vote on the proposed sale.”

They allow the companies to increase ratepayer costs. The utility companies offer sellers a large amount of money but they can raise rates to cover it, he said.

“The profits alone will cause your rates to double,” said Ferguson added.  When that happens township or county officials can “shift the blame to Aqua.”

While the companies promise rate stabilization, they can also then go to the Public Utilities Commission to get increases.

“They add no value and extract large profits,” he said. “The customers should have the right to vote on the proposed sale.”

Tony Bellitto, executive director of the North Penn Water Authority and a past president of American Water Works Association, also spoke.

“Private companies are not just buying infrastructure,” said Bellitto. “What they’re buying is the customer who will provide a constant revenue stream.”

And there is an incentive for the sellers to get as much as possible and the buyers also do not mind paying high prices, since they can turn around and charge the customer, he said.

“They’re going to get back whatever they pay and more,” said Bellitto.  While BCWSA says customers will only pay $20 more a month “that is a complete fabrication,” he said. “Don’t believe it for a second.”

“At the end of the day this all comes down to the (Bucks County) commissioners,” said McMahon. “This doesn’t pass without their approval. The commissioners have every right and duty to prevent it.”

Elizabeth Fleschar, a water chemist who lives in Peddler’s View in Horsham, said her subdivision is already serviced by Aqua PA.

“Our rates have increased fantastically,” she said. She noted that only the first 2,000 gallons used are at the lower rate, while the rate “then escalates.” And there have been water quality issues, too, she said.

“There is no question in my mind there is some very serious dark money changing hands to get Aqua to a monopoly. We are a cash cow for Aqua. Their cost to run it is half what we’re paying.”

However, a spokesperson for Aqua PA sent a statement, rebutting NOPE’s contentions.

“Aqua Pennsylvania is excited to have been selected by the board of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority as its potential partner for the sale of its wastewater operations.

“As part of our proposal to BCWSA, Aqua has committed to maintain BCWSA’s sanitary wastewater rates in effect at closing for the first year after the acquisition or until after Jan. 1, 2025 (whichever occurs first).  We understand that BCWSA anticipates that a portion of the sale proceeds from the acquisition will be contributed to a fund maintained by either Bucks County or BCWSA to minimize rate increases over the next 10 years.

“We appreciate that the BCWSA board, as well as the county commissioners, municipal leaders, and most importantly, customers, are interested in conserving long-term rate protection and we are ready to engage with them as it’s always been our goal to ensure affordable rates for our customers.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or