By Brandi Underwood
Statewide customers of West Virginia American Water will be parting with a little bit more cash this month when their water bill comes in the mail — 6.7 percent more cash, to be exact.
Residents of Fayetteville, on the other hand, will notice two rate increases slipped into their mailboxes. Like the rest of West Virginia American’s customers, they will notice the same water hike. But on top of that, Fayetteville residents connected to the public sewer system will see a 14 percent rate increase on their sewer bill.
The rate change, which went into effect Oct. 11, increased the average monthly Fayetteville residential sewer bill 14 percent from $35.78 to $40.92.
Approximately 1,100 households connected to Fayetteville’s public sewer system are affected by the hike, which will help offset costs invested by West Virginia American Water into upgrading the town’s antiquated sewer system to be compliant with West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection requirements.
This rate increase represents the first wastewater rate increase since West Virginia American acquired the Town of Fayetteville’s wastewater system in 2008.
By the end of 2013, West Virginia American will have made investments totaling $1.36 million in the Fayetteville wastewater system over its five-year span of ownership. Among 1,100 households, the firm’s investments averaged to be more than $1,200 in sewer system improvements per customer.
“Many of these improvements were upgrades necessary to modernize the Town of Fayetteville’s wastewater operations and to comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations. Others have been necessary to maintain service levels and the system’s overall operations,” said Laura Jordan, external affairs manager for W.Va. American Water.
While the improvements have come at a high cost, Jordan explained that they were necessary to bring the system’s operations up to today’s standards.
“In 2011, then-acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the WVDEP honored West Virginia American Water’s environmental stewardship with recognition of Fayetteville as one of the most improved wastewater treatment plants in the state,” Jordan said.
While some members of other communities have become concerned that the sewer system investments in Fayetteville have impacted their household water bill, Jordan assures there is no connection.
“Investments in Fayetteville sewer system upgrades have no bearing on any rate increases outside of Fayetteville,” Jordan said.
The 6.7 percent water increase statewide was related to the approximately $85 million of system improvements the company has made to general facilities and infrastructure across the state since 2009, Jordan explained.
West Virginia American Water made investments in upgrades to the water distribution system, water treatment facilities, storage tanks, pumping stations and computer systems.
In a press release, West Virginia American President Jeff McIntyre stated, “These prudent investments were necessary to enhance customer service and maintain water quality, service reliability and fire protection for approximately one-third of the state’s population that we serve.”
The good news is that the company agreed not to file another general rate case for water or wastewater prior to Jan. 1, 2015, so customers can be assured that their current rate will be static until well into 2015.
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In an effort to lessen the impact of rate increases for customers struggling to make ends meet, West Virginia American launched a program in May that provides a 20 percent discount on residential water rates for certain low-income households.
The company also offers utility assistance through its shareholders’ support of the Dollar Energy Fund, which provides one-time grants to eligible customers.
To learn more about these programs, visit www .westvirginiaamwater .com.
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