CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It could be next year before a rate increase could take affect for customers of West Virginia American Water Company.

The company filed a request with the state Public Service Commission Monday that would raise the base rate for the average residential customer by 21 percent or just more than $10 per month.

Laura Martin, company external affairs manager, said the rate hike request is due to ongoing infrastructure improvements.

“This is really necessary for us to be able to maintain quality water, reliable service and also fire protection throughout our service area,” she said.

Martin said there is never a good time to ask for a rate increase, but the request is driven by the $200 million in capital investment they’ve made since the last rate filing in 2015.

The last time there was a rate increase was in in Feb. 2016.

Since then, Martin said crews have been busy improving the water system for a low density of customers per mile.

“The water system that West Virginia American Water maintains is one of the most complex and challenging water systems in the entire country. We have a very low customer density, so very few numbers of customers per miles of main. That is a large amount of infrastructure to maintain,” she said.

Martin said they have worked to keep their expenses relatively flat for the last 10 years. She they understand customers may have issues paying their water bill each month, so they offer discounts for qualifying low-income customers and offer certain emergency grants.

“We do know there are challenges our customers face and we do our very best to accommodate those who truly need the assistance most,” Martin said.

The PSC will be holding public hearings on the proposal. Those hearings times and locations will be announced at a later date.

It will be months before the PSC makes a decision on the request. Martin said, if approved, the earliest customers can expect their bill to increase would be Feb. 2019.

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