Wednesday, News Channel 3 reported about a local water company's plans to raise rates by more than 250 percent. Turns out this isn't the first time it's proposed such a huge increase. According to Aqua America's Annual Security's Exchange Commission Report, the company files rate increase requests to recover capital expenses; things like replacing water pumps, or building storage facilities. But Aqua customers we spoke with said they haven't seen any improvements in water service, and this isn't the first time they've heard this story. “Aqua has a presence in the Philadelphia suburbs and I still have relatives living in the suburbs. Their rates since Aqua has come in more than doubled,” said Richard Vengels, a concerned customer. We found reports of similar situations in Missouri, Ohio, and Texas. In Florida the company proposed a 350 percent increase, but settled for 26 percent. Aqua North Carolina President, Tom Roberts said "Percentage wise it's significant, we understand that. But many of these customers have not had an increase in 18 or 19 years." If the rate increase goes through, Aqua customers will pay more than Cape Fear Public Utility Authority customers pay for both water and sewer; totaling more than $50 more per month. With 3,500 water accounts, and 2,400 sewer accounts, Aqua NC is looking at making nearly a $160,000 more per year. The North Carolina Public Utilities Commission did not return our phone calls Thursday, but it will have to approve any rate increase. The county will hold a public hearing to discuss the issue Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the New Hanover County Courthouse.
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