RALEIGH: Aqua NC customers sound-off on proposed rate increase - WNCN: News, Weather

Aqua NC customers sound-off on proposed rate increase

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The North Carolina Utilities Commission hears from Aqua NC customers on the company's proposed rate hike. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN) The North Carolina Utilities Commission hears from Aqua NC customers on the company's proposed rate hike. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN)

The state's largest water utility is asking for considerably less than a 20 percent rate increase it had first proposed. 

But some customers of Aqua NC say the utility shouldn't be permitted any rate increase because it provides poor-quality water and is already charging too much compared to water prices in Cary and Raleigh.

The company's latest rate request averages 5.7 percent when considering its entire service area, but rates vary from division to division.

Aqua Water is asking for a 7 percent increase and Aqua Sewer wants a 2.7 percent boost. Customers in its Fairways Water division in the Wilmington Area would see a 9.4 percent rate decrease, Fairways Sewer rates would go up 4.1 percent, and its Brookwood Water division in the Fayetteville area would see 15.5 percent increase.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission held a public hearing Monday on Aqua NC's request to raise rates. During the hearing, customers had the opportunity to sound off on the water company's third rate increase proposed in the past six years.

"At the end of the day, it's fair to the company and fair to the customers," said Aqua NC President Tom Roberts.

Aqua says it has invested a lot in infrastructure and needs to recover that money.

"Our stuff is all underground, so it's a bit out of sight, out of mind," Roberts said. "So people don't realize what is going on there."

Some Aqua customers, however, complain that their water is filled with unknown substances.

"To this day, I don't know what this is and this was what was in our sink just three months ago," customer James Hansen told the Public Utilities Commission while holding a mineral sample.

Until those water issues are cleared up, some customers oppose any rate increase.

"If we could get good quality water, we would be willing to pay maybe a higher price," customer Pat Fleming, who lives in Wake Forest, said. "But at the point we are now, we don't feel it's justified."

Other customers complain that the utility's rates are too high compared to comparable rates.

"Aqua's basic fixed charged for water service is more than five times that of Cary and six times that of Raleigh," pointed out customer Thomas Stevenson.

It will be a month or even longer before all the testimony presented at today's hearing is digested and a decision on the rate increase is finally made.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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