Newark Gets Water Utility Back

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A controversial non-profit that runs the City of Newark's vast water supply system is being disbanded after several investigations raised questions about mismanagement of the agency. The utility will now revert back to the City's control.

After failing to create a new independent authority to run Newark's water supply, Mayor Cory Booker says he is pleased the Newark Watershed Conservation Development Corporation is closing. Now, the city will have  direct control and can upgrade the century-old system, Booker said. 

"A third of our water  that we pump and treat  is lost to leaks," Booker said. "Everybody has just kicked the can down the road."Now that it is in-house we can start working  much more aggressively on dealing with these issues," Booker said.

The NWCDC is currently under investigation by the New Jersey's  tate Comptroller's office  after media reports that the non-profit was paying out hundreds of thousands  of dollars to politically-connected lawyers and consultants. The non-profit has been in a pitched battle with the City Council over fiscal accountability issues.  

With the utility now returning to municipal control  there will be more transparency, said City Councilman Ras Baraka, who opposed Booker's earlier plan to create a non-profit authority to manage Newark's water system. 

"Now there is a lot of work for the City to do just assessing  the resources we still have there, the employees that were there -- how do we bring the department back in. it is excellent news for me," Baraka said. 

The City will now have to pick up the cost of operating the utility, officials say.   

Newark supplies  water to half million people in several municipalities.  Officials say the aging system  needs a half-billion dollars in upgrades to ensure the system meets increasingly more stringent Federal drinking water standards.