In an order entered late Friday afternoon, the Public Service Commission of West Virginia approved an agreement reached by the company, PSC staff and the Consumer Advocate Division to establish new water and wastewater rates for West Virginia American Water. West Virginia American Waters rate request was driven by the companys ongoing infrastructure investments, which are necessary to maintain and improve water quality, service reliability, and fire protection. The company has invested $200 million in improvements to upgrade water mains, treatment plants, tanks, valves, booster stations and other infrastructure since its last rate case. Another driver was the continued decline in population and water usage.
The rates set by the Public Service Commission support our companys ability to provide clean, safe, reliable and affordable water service and recognize the significant investments we continually make in our system to replace aging infrastructure, said Brian Bruce, president of West Virginia American Water. Appropriately set rates are essential to a water utilitys ability to renew and replace aging infrastructure and satisfy increasingly stringent drinking water regulations.
The new rates, effective Feb. 25, 2019, reflect a 14 percent net increase over current rates and follow a 300-day review of the companys rate request filed last April. Per the PSCs order, the companys DSIC surcharge will be reset to zero for the remainder of 2019, and the companys excess deferred taxes, brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, will benefit customers by offsetting 2019 and future years DSIC surcharges. The order also supports a new approach to addressing customers lead service lines proposed by the company as part of its commitment to maintain excellent water quality and protect customer health and safety.
The new rates change the average residential customer water bill (3,132 gallons per month) by $6.69 from $47.51 to $54.20. The minimum bill for 1,500 gallons changes from $26.72 to $31.44. Wastewater rates for the companys sewer systems in Fayette County will also change by 17.44% percent or approximately $7.49 per month for the average residential wastewater bill (2,766 gallons).
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West Virginia American Water recognizes that some families face economic challenges and offers several targeted customer assistance programs. Residential customers have the option of paying bills under a budget billing plan to have predictable monthly payments and avoid seasonal spikes, and customers with past-due bills are offered flexible payment arrangements through installment agreements.
The company also offers a reduced rate program that provides a 20 percent discount on residential water rates year round for low-income customers determined eligible by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Approximately 6,700 West Virginia American Water customers are currently enrolled in this program. Additionally, the company is currently pursing legislation to expand this program to provide a 20 percent discount on wastewater rates in response to feedback from Fayette County customers during recent rate case public meetings. Finally, the company helps fund the West Virginia Utility Assistance Program Dollar Energy Fund, through which eligible customers can receive one-time emergency grants applied directly to their water bills.
Customers can learn more about West Virginia American Waters bill assistance programs, including budget billing, installment plans, reduced rate program and emergency grants by calling Customer Service at 1-800-685-8660 or visiting https://amwater.com/wvaw/customer-service-billing/low-income-program.
West Virginia American Water, a subsidiary of American Water (NYSE: AWK), is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state, providing high-quality and reliable water services to approximately 530,000 people in West Virginia. With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 7,100 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to over 14 million people in 45 states and Ontario, Canada. More information can be found at www.westvirginiaamwater.com.