News Feature | July 31, 2014

Rate Increase Sparks Controversy In North Carolina

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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North Carolina officials are fed up with a water utility in the state. 

"In a scorching eight-page appeal, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said Aqua North Carolina should be prohibited from raising water and sewer rates without public hearings," Independent Weekly reported this month. 

In his appeal, which will be sent to the state Supreme Court, Cooper argued that regulators did not draw the correct conclusions when they allowed the utility to continue raising rates without seeking input from customers. 

“Consumers deserve quality water at a fair price and they deserve a chance to weigh in when a utility wants a rate hike,” Cooper said.  “The Utilities Commission should have all information before making a decision to raise rates.”

State law usually requires that utilities get permission from regulators to raise rates, and public hearings are usually included, according to WRAL. 

The utility responded by defending its rate hike in a release issued in early July. 

"It enables the utility to accelerate much-needed infrastructure upgrades, such as installing treatment systems and filters to improve  secondary water quality—water quality issues that arise from naturally occurring minerals in groundwater sources throughout North Carolina," stated Aqua NC in the release. 

The release also stated that "tap water remains a good value" for Aqua NC ratepayers.

"Aqua's average North Carolina customers uses about 5,000 gallons of water a month. That means many of our customers pay about a penny a gallon for water delivered directly to their tap," the release reads. 

Aqua NC is a top water utility in North Carolina. It "owns 800 water and/or sewer systems and serves 90,000 households, making it the largest private water and sewer utility in the state. Aqua customers already pay among the highest utility rates in North Carolina. Customers have complained that water quality, as the INDY has extensively reported, is poor," Independent Weekly reported.

Customers are seeing significantly higher rates this year, according to Citizen-Times

“My water and sewer bill went from $90 a month to $133 a month. I got the bill, and every single item went up on it,” one resident said. “How would you like that?”

For more oversight news, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "money," fsecart © 2007, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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