State regulators have announced that utilities will no longer be able to shut off the water, electricity or natural gas of residential customers if they don’t pay their bills.
It wasn’t necessarily the way Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wanted to start a conversation with the suburbs about what it would mean to the region if the capital city goes broke. But the Metropolitan District Commission’s unexpected levy on its member communities for a reserve fund in case Hartford cannot pay its bills is getting Bronin invitations to the suburbs to talk about the city’s challenges.
For decades, Connecticut residents have taken water for granted. But approval of a water bottling plant in Bloomfield, the coming of the state’s worst drought since the 1960s, and several other water controversies in recent years have put the spotlight on both the state’s lack of an overall water plan and questions about the transparency and accountability of the Metropolitan District Commission, the Hartford region’s big water and sewer agency.
Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, conceded the failure Thursday of an effort to pass a bill that would have regulated but not prohibit a plan by Niagara Bottling to bottle up to 1.8 million gallons of Metropolitan District Commission water a day in Bloomfield.
The Senate passed compromise legislation Tuesday that would regulate but not prohibit a plan by Niagara Bottling to treat, bottle and sell up to 1.8 million gallons of tap water daily at a plant planned for the Hartford suburb of Bloomfield.
Niagara Bottling’s plan to buy and bottle lightly treated tap water in Bloomfield is high octane fuel for a debate at the Connecticut General Assembly and the Hartford region’s water authority about the ethics and environmental impact of what is projected this year to become the most popular packaged beverage in the United States – the ubiquitous, single-serve, plastic bottle of water.