Aqua Ohio Inc. has asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for approval to assess a system improvement surcharge of 3.5% on about half its 150,000 customers statewide, including more than 8,100 in Franklin County.
The surcharge would be on the total water bill of each customer, and would cost an additional $1.92 per month for an average residential customer using 4,000 gallons of water per month.
Aqua wants to assess the surcharge in areas formerly served by the Ohio American Water Co., which it acquired in 2012, to cover water main replacements and other system improvements totaling $17 million in the past year.
If approved this year by the PUCO as submitted, it would be Aqua’s third surcharge increase of more than 3% in about a year and, by law, the last surcharge the company could assess since its last water rate increase in 2016.
Aqua got approval for a 3.73% system improvement surcharge in October 2019 and a 3.66% surcharge in February 2019. If the PUCO OKs the latest surcharge request as presented this year, Aqua wll have raised bills nearly 11% in three years.
But Jeff La Rue, Aqua Ohio spokesman, pointed out that federal tax relief led the company to implement water consumption cost credits of 11.8% or about $5.27 a month for water-only customers beginning in January for the December 2019 bill and continuing for the rest of 2020. Aqua customers who also receive wastewater treatment services are getting a 16.2% credit or an additional reduction in their monthly bills of nearly $8.
So even if the PUCO approves the third systems improvement surcharge of 3.5%, La Rue said water-only customers will still be paying 51 cents per month less for the average 4,000 gallons per month of consumption. And those customers who get both water and wastewater services will be saving nearly $8 per month, he said.
In Franklin County, the surcharge would affect Aqua customers in Blacklick Estates in Madison and Truro townships; the Worthington Hills neighborhood in Sharon and Perry townships; the Timberbrook area just north of Interstate 70 in Norwich Township, south of Hilliard; Lake Darby in Prairie Township; and Huber Ridge in Blendon Township, south of Westerville.
Other areas served by Aqua that would pay the proposed surcharge include about 18,000 customers in the city of Marion, Caledonia and Prospect villages, and Martel in central Tully Township, all in Marion County; and about 1,370 customers near Mansfield in Richland County.
The increase would not affect customers in Stark County or southern Summit County, an Aqua Ohio spokesman said.
(Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction below. 2p.m. May 28)
Other Aqua service areas affected include the city of Ashtabula and surrounding areas in Ashtabula County; Mentor and Mentor-on-the-Lake in Lake County; Tiffin in Seneca County; Lake White in Pike County; parts of Lawrence, Portage, Preble and Williams counties; Masury in Trumbull County; Lake Mohawk in Carroll County, and Lake Tomahawk in Columbiana County.
CORRECTION: The increase would not affect Aqua Ohio customers in Stark and southern Summit County. Information was incorrect when this story was first published May 23.