State regulators limit Aqua NC rate increase
Homeowners tired of brown drinking water were celebrating Friday night after learning that the North Carolina Utilities Commission denied Aqua North Carolina’s request for an 8 percent increase in rates.
Aqua customers packed a rate hearing in June to complain to the Utilities Commission about the brown water that stains their clothes, sinks and bathtubs.
The commission apparently heard them and approved an average increase of 2.5 percent.
“I don’t mind paying it if the water’s clean. When the water’s not clean, you get upset about paying a premium and still having dirty water coming through your tap,” Aqua customer Owen Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh, like thousands of others in northern Wake County, are on the Bayleaf water system, which has been plagued by high levels of iron and manganese that can discolor the water.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans next year to re-evaluate the drinking water standard for manganese, studies that show high levels of manganese can effect the central nervous system, posing a higher risk to children, the elderly and pregnant women.
If the EPA declares manganese a primary drinking water contaminant, Aqua could be forced to remove it from the water.
Aqua officials announced Thursday that they have already installed 11 filter systems in Wake, Johnston and Gaston counties to scrub iron and manganese from the water.
As part of the rate hike decision, Aqua will also study whether permanent, alternative water supply is the best option in the future for those in North Raleigh, because the ground water is so dirty.
Aqua’s state president, Shannon Becker, said in a statement that the company is pleased the commission “approved this modest revenue increase as it enables Aqua to continue to make timely and prudent improvements.”
Becker also noted that tax cuts will be passed along as billing credits over the next three years, so some customers may see no increases in their average bills.
Aqua serves 250,000 customers in 51 counties statewide, including the area between Interstate 540 and Falls Lake in Wake County.