Newscasts

PNS Daily Newscast - November 13, 2018. 


Californian’s now facing a pair of wildfires; Also on the Tuesday rundown: Higher education in New Jersey: a racial split; plus food resources still available despite the “public charge” proposal.

Daily Newscasts

Watchdogs: Water Company Wants Customers to Pay for Their Mistakes

PHOTO: A watchdog group says the state's largest water utility may want rate payers to bare the cost of mistakes it made during last year's Elk River chemical spill, and for the companies failing to maintain its network of water mains. Photo by Dan Heyman.
PHOTO: A watchdog group says the state's largest water utility may want rate payers to bare the cost of mistakes it made during last year's Elk River chemical spill, and for the companies failing to maintain its network of water mains. Photo by Dan Heyman.
April 6, 2015

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - Watchdogs say West Virginia American Water might stick ratepayers with the cost of its mistakes in the Elk River Chemical spill, plus a backlog of water main repairs. Last week the utility notified the Public Service Commission that it intends to ask for a rate hike.

It has not released details, but it has said it may try to recover some of the $10.5 million last year's chemical spill cost it. Cathy Kunkel, steering committee member with Advocates for a Safe Water System, says customers shouldn't have to pay for the company's errors.

"They didn't have an alternate water source that they could switch to, they weren't monitoring the river for contaminants," Kunkel says. "Whether they're going to try to stick their customers with the costs that they incurred as a result of their lack of preparedness for the freedom spill."

Kunkel says the many water main brakes this winter also show that the utility's not doing its job. A company spokesperson says the rate hike is necessary to enhance customer service and maintain water quality and reliability.

Kunkel says rate payers shouldn't be expected to bail the company out. She says the shareholders should bear the cost of the utility's failings which isn't happening now.

"In fact they send about $7.5 million a year to their parent company in New Jersey," says Kunkel. "Money that we're paying in rates that we're not seeing any real benefit from."

She says West Virginia American Water has been shortchanging the maintenance it should be doing on its networks of pipes. As a result, she says, it has more than twice the rate of leaks the PSC says it should have and that means the utility's customers are supporting a water network where they're charged for a lot of water they're not getting.

"Their Kanawha Valley system has one of the highest rates of water loss in the state. They're losing about 35-to-37 percent of their treated water before it even gets to people's houses," Kunkel says.

West Virginia American Water is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state and provides service to about 600,000 state residents.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV