EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — A local private water utility that pumps some of the state’s most expensive water is in the midst of a sale to Aqua America Inc., a national utility, but officials said rates aren’t expected to go down.
Seaview Harbor Water customers paid New Jersey's second-highest regulated water rates, according to the state Board of Public Utilities list of the regulated utilities.
The 94 customers in that section of Egg Harbor Township paid an average of $9.60 per 1,000 gallons, or $1,205 per year on average, according to BPU records. By comparison, an average customer of a state-regulated water utility paid $4.79 per 1,000 gallons, averaging $479 per year for water.
Only the Roxiticus Water Co. Inc. of Mendham, Morris County, which charges $11.11 for 1,000 gallons, charges more. But because Roxiticus bills differently, those customers pay about $1,039 annually — about $150 less than Seaview Harbor residents.
The BPU regulates the rates of all privately owned water utilities and public utilities that serve customers in more than one municipality.
Seaview Harbor was before the township Planning Board earlier this month, board Vice Chairman Manuel Aponte said, seeking permission to divide a property into three lots before the sale. Aponte said the company said it planned to build houses on two lots in the bayside community, leaving a driveway for the water utility.
Aqua America officials also discussed the pending sale at the meeting, touting the company’s size and experience and saying they planned to clean up the landscaping and existing building, Aponte said. The company did not discuss significant infrastructure improvements.
Aqua America’s New Jersey subsidiary serves about 51,000 customers, according to the BPU, charging about $4.92 per 1,000 gallons. Nationally, the company says on its website it services 3 million water and sewer customers in 10 states. Company officials would not comment for this story.
State records show the Seaview Harbor Water Co. is currently owned by George K. Miller Jr., Longport attorney; Joseph L. Stewart, executive director of Seaview Harbor Marina; and Ralph Henry, an executive with the Arthur R. Henry Inc. construction firm.
Stewart, the water utility's managing partner, did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Henry and Miller could not be reached.
The three bought out the original company in 2008 for $425,000, following local complaints of bad water and remote and inaccessible management. Those complaints have been largely eliminated.
Angela Melzi, a part-time resident, said she felt “victimized” by the water rates, especially since neighborhood property tax assessments increased sharply in the fall.
“I feel victimized by the whole thing,” she said. “I feel there is nowhere to turn to for help.”
The township committee unanimously introduced an ordinance this week that consented to the sale of Seaview Harbor Water to Aqua. No price was mentioned.
Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough, a Seaview resident, also voted for the ordinance. The sale, he said, is “probably a good thing. It's a big company with deep pockets.”
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