Nassau County has selected New Jersey-based United Water, the world's second-largest private water systems operator, to run its sprawling sewer system in a deal aimed at enabling the cash-strapped county to retire hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, officials said.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano will make the announcement at a news conference Thursday afternoon, according to a news release to be issued Thursday.
County officials had previously estimated the deal could bring in $400 million in revenue for the county and another $465 million to retire the debt of the county Sewer Authority. Wednesday, officials said proceeds would amount to at least $750 million, which would go entirely to help pay down the county's $3 billion in total debt. All of the funds would come from a third-party private investor.
"It's time to pay down this debt and take it off the backs of our children," Mangano said in a news release. "This plan allows the county to retire approximately 25 percent of Nassau's debt and generate millions in reoccurring savings for the county to hold the line on property taxes."
United Water, a subsidiary of Paris-based Suez Environment, was selected to operate and manage the Bay Park and Cedar Creek sewage treatment plants, 53 sewage pumping stations and 3,000 miles of sewers.
The county will continue to own the sewer system, set the rates and provide oversight of operations, said United spokesman Rich Henning.
Sewer rates would be frozen through 2015, said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin. "After that date, the contractor cannot pass costs onto the county that exceed the [consumer price index]," he said. "Moreover, with proper management, new efficiencies and reduced debt service payments, it is contemplated that there will be no financial impact to our residents."
Critics, including Democratic lawmakers, have said a private operator will not be able to make a profit without major rate hikes.
United plans to make the system more efficient by replacing outdated machinery and cutting energy costs, Henning said. United will also pay for all capital improvements, he said. "We are very excited to bring our ability and expertise to solve some of the problems facing Nassau's wastewater system," Henning said.
The other bidders were Veolia Environment of Paris, a subsidiary of the firm running Nassau's bus system, and Severn Trent Services, of Fort Washington, Pa. Severn Trent has managed the county's Glen Cove Water Pollution Control Plant since 1992 and will continue in that capacity.
The GOP-controlled legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board that controls the county's finances, must still approve the deal. Control of the system is not expected to be transferred until next year.
The county will hold public information hearings on the plan beginning May 9 at 6 p.m. at the Cedar Creek plant in Wantagh.