Shorelands Water Company of Hazlet, the independent that began as a service to summer inhabitants of West Keansburg, and grew in size and scope over its 90 years, now folds itself into the ownership of New Jersey American Water.

Helmut Seisenberger

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved the acquisition March 24, according to information issued today by New Jersey American President Robert MacLean. Shorelands's 11,000 customers are being notified by mail.

Company officials did not reveal the purchase price, or the implications for stockholders. MacLean said that 14 Shorelands workers accepted offers to stay on as New Jersey American employees.

MacLean, who brings his expertise to the Jersey Shore from his previous comparable position for American Water in California, observed that the proposal falls in line with his company's growth mission, and culminates ongoing discussions between the entities.

"We're always considering growing," he said, "and we've probably been talking to them for years."

Begun in 1926, and under the same ownership since 1957, Shorelands serves Hazlet, Holmdel, Unon Beach, Keyport, and Aberdeen, with what New Jersey American estimates to be two-billion gallons of water per year.

The company supplements its supply from New Jersey American's Swimming River treatment plant by tapping into the Old Bridge and Farrington aquifers, according to its web page.

"They have been a bulk sale customer of New Jersey American for some time," MacLean noted. "We've cooperated for years."

"This new system connects to our existing Union Beach system, and will enhance our supply, helping us achieve our goal of increased reliability for customers in our northeastern Monmouth County service areas," MacLean said.

"For the foreseeable future, things will be pretty consistent," he continued. "Customers can expect the same good service that they've been getting from Shorelands."

NJ American is in the midst of select-area main replacements as well as main flushing. MacLean doesn't anticipate major immediate overhauls for the Shorelands infrastructure.

"The system, from what I hear, is in great shape," he said. "Of course, all water systems require routine upgrades. We'll be programming those in, as we learn more about the system."

American Water, the parent firm of New Jersey American, traces its origins to 1886, and reaches 47 states in addition to Ontario, Canada, with 6,800 employees. The company bills itself as New Jersey's largest investor-owned water utility. serving an estimaed 2,700,000 people in the state on a customer base of 640,000. The company reaches 3,300,000 customers nationwide, according to spokesperson Denise Venuti Free.

MacLean explained that, as state-regulated utilities, with profit-margin oversight by the Board of Public Utilities, an acquisition does not directly translate to major bottom-line differences, and a company's success, or lack of it, doesn't dictate mergers.

"Sometimes we do buy companies that are struggling, and we're pretty good at that, " he remarked. "Sometimes they need capital to invest. Maybe they're struggling on the technical side. We often fix up companies that are struggling. I wouldn't put Shorelands in that category."

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