Whatever Happened to the CWA-24?

By
water utility executive
Image via Aqua Pennsylvania.
Marc Lucca.
aqua logo

For months we have read mistruths about Aqua’s interest in purchasing Chester Water Authority. False claims that Aqua would close the Octoraro Reservoir, claims we wouldn’t extend similar jobs to current CWA employees or that they would be forced to relocate and many other complete fabrications that we’ve proven to be inaccurate. Instead of making up mistruths about what Aqua would do to CWA if the sale went through, many of us wish they would answer questions we’ve been asking — like, for instance, whatever happened to the CWA-24?

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of an April 2020 Daily Times article that the Chester Water Authority stated it was “… not in financial distress, though it did furlough 24 administrative employees.” The furloughs, which accounted for about 15 percent of CWA’s workforce, were attributed to employees who could not work remotely and a 10 percent drop in water usage. These employees and their families lost a paycheck, perhaps their family’s only source of income from which they provided food, shelter, childcare, and education during a global pandemic when a job was perhaps needed most.

Around the time this happened, one CWA employee reached out to me to say that they had not had to look for work in decades and were unsure where to turn. In fact, we hired some of the “furloughed” employees at Aqua Pennsylvania, after CWA reportedly told them they would not return or perhaps they simply wanted a better place to work.

I can’t help but wonder: how much money did CWA save by laying off these employees? Were their layoffs necessary to pay attorneys and public relations firms or did those savings improve customer service and drinking water quality? Is CWA leadership more worried about their own paychecks than the well-being of those they are meant to serve? What about those who were laid off? Will all of the employees be called to return to work or was this workforce reduction that was masked by the pandemic? And why is CWA still raising rates despite the workforce reduction?

This two-year anniversary hits another milestone in which CWA is openly ignoring Right to Know requests, while they also recently ignored my request for presumably public information regarding details that supported their most recent customer rate increase.

It is clear to me they’re leaving a lot out of this public conversation. Please consider calling your CWA board member to get answers on the CWA-24 and if they all have returned to work. You can also ask about the rate increase, the lack of transparency — there are many unanswered questions the public can ask about where their money is being spent.

And if any “furloughed” CWA employees are reading this, I hope they’ll consider a role at Aqua — we have good-paying jobs with excellent benefits. Our employees are our family and we need them for the excellent work we do in this region. Why not reach out to “furloughed” CWA employees who have chosen careers with Aqua? Let them share their experience here at Aqua. Log into www.aquaforchester.com to read about our plans should we acquire CWA, including our commitment to employees, maintaining public access to the Octoraro Reservoir and so many more details.

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Marc A. Lucca is the President of Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc. Aqua Pennsylvania serves approximately 1.5 million people in 32 counties throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Visit AquaAmerica.com for more information or follow Aqua on Facebook at facebook.com/MyAquaAmerica and on Twitter at @MyAquaAmerica.

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