CHARLESTON, W.Va. West Virginia American Water Company customers in the Charleston area got their chance Monday  to speak out against a proposed 20-percent rate hike.

“At a time like this, when the economy is so bad and people are struggling so much, it’s just unconscionable for them to ask for a 20-percent increase,” said South Charleston resident Pamela Lowry.

Lowry was among several customers who came out for the third of a series of five public hearings being held throughout the state hosted by the West Virginia Public Service Commission regarding the rate increase.

“It comes at a time right now when people already have to choose between food and medicines, and now we are going to have to start juggling utilities too,” said Lowry. “It’s just not right.”

The hearings have given the water utility chances to hear what customers think about the increase, which would raise the average residential bill (3,315 gallons) from $39.11 to $47.24.

Most customers want “the PSC to take a good hard look at the case and make sure that the requests that the company is making are valid and fair,” said Laura Jordan, WVAWC’s external affairs manager.

The water company has cited increased levels of plant investment, rate of return, operating expenses and lower customer usage as the reasons for passing along  $24 million in charges to customers.

Lowry said aging infrastructure is not a good excuse to justify the rate increase. 

“This just didn’t happen overnight,” Lowry said. “Any responsible person knows that you have to keep up your repairs on your home — you don’t wait till it’s falling down around your neck to start worrying about fixing it.”

The PSC has two more public hearings scheduled: one in Huntington on Tuesday night and another in Fayetteville Wednesday night.

Jordan said the water company anticipated the rate hike to be unpopular.

 “There is never going to be a good time to do it, but what we try to help our customers understand is that the longer you defer costs, the longer you defer maintenance, the more it will cost them further down the road,” Jordan said. “We are looking for a very fair recovery of the investments that we’ve already made.”

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  • blugldmn

    as time passes by water becomes scarcer? where is it going? the same amount of water that existed millions of years ago still exists today.

    Water shortages are the next big hoax.....

    There may be insufficient water purification facilities but there is and never will be a water shortage....unless governement is 100% responsible for supplying water...

    • Shadow

      I think that you should look at the data on the water levels across the country to see the effects of pumping ground water for agriculture and to support a population that has increase three fold in 70 years. Yes, there is almost the same amount of water now than there was many years ago but a lot more of it has salt in it and that is difficult to remove and what we are taking from the ground was stored there over thousands of years. Water may be an unlimited commodity but not without excessive cost to make it potable. The Western States, GA, and AL are all fighting over it now.

  • Shadow

    As time passes, water becomes a scarcer commodity, the only common sense method to control excessive usage to make it more expensive. How the public reacts to that is their business, more efficient toilets, less grass watering, etc. That is how the market works. Remember, "Save water, shower with a friend".

    • Robert WV

      Yes, and as usage declines WVAW asks for rate hikes because ... usage is down and they have to make up the money.

      • Shadow

        Sounds like: The good news and the bad news thing.

        • Robert WV

          "You can't win for losing"

  • jfk

    The average rate of $39.11 that they are using must be for a family of (one) maybe (two) my water bill is between 55 and 70 a month in South Charleston for 4 people. Ok since the bank still owns my home can I bill the bank when I need a new roof, windows heating and cooling etc. NO I PAY FOR IT!!
    How much do the CEO's of the German owned company get a year?!! This is nothing more than robbery and if the PSC allows it they are no different than the thieves at the water company who by the way get their water from ABOVE

    • Charleston,WV

      FYI: The company was a subsidiary of the German-based RWE Group from 2001 to 2008,[2] but the company was divested on April 23, 2008 in an IPO on the NYS (as reported via Wikipedia), but I definitely agree that he rate hike is bull malarkey.

  • Robert WV

    A rate increase due in part to decreased usage.

    Gotta love it.

    • Alum

      Still have to pay for the equipment and infrastructure regardless of the usage. The alternative is to do as they do in India and other second and third world countries.

      • Robert WV

        Yes you do, but don't expect me to pay more because I cut back on usage in an effort to be able to afford my water bill.

        Also, don't expect me to fund some guaranteed rate of return during a down economy.

        WVAMW sees it's customers as an ATM, their rates already the highest in the country.

  • RHytonen

    I don't know about Charleston, but that figure is CERTAINLY much lower than the average bill for a family of TWO in north central WV.

    Its about $70 up here. And they're making a killing from the frackers, so soon we won't even have any potable water or have any infrastructure left.