Carolina Water Service customers who want to let South Carolina regulators know how they feel about proposed rate increases can do so now.
The utility submitted its proof of public notice Dec. 28 to the state public service commission, having published its intent in four major newspapers covering its customer area including The Herald in York County, to raise water and sewer rates. Carolina Water in September notified the commission it would apply for changes, then formally applied Nov. 10.
More than 9,700 people in York County get water, sewer or both services from Carolina Water, which serves about 28,000 people statewide. The majority of county customers live in Lake Wylie. Rates throughout the system could increase 15 to 18 percent for base water charges, 30 percent for the per gallon usage and 21 to 32 percent for sewer.
At a Dec. 4 public meeting hosted by the utility at Camp Thunderbird, utility staff said the typical bill in Lake Wylie for water and sewer is $97 a month. If the increases are approved, it would jump to $125.
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Yet plenty has to happen before that final decision.
Testimony from the applicant and other parties in the case is due Feb. 26, with public testimony due March 12. Then come rebuttals ahead of a required public hearing at 10:30 a.m. April 3 in Columbia. A date for a final decision by the public service commission hasn’t been set.
Individuals or groups looking to intervene in the case have until Jan. 9 to file with the public service commission. Intervenors are parties of record in the case and must be approved by the commission. Intervenors also must notify the state office of regulatory staff and other parties in the case, by mail, including the utility. The only intervenor by late December is the office of regulatory staff.
A less formal way of getting testimony into the case record is to offer it at a public hearing. To date, there are no meetings set in the new year in York County. Requests for a hearing with public service commissioners can be made through Jan. 16. A Lexington resident asked the public service commission Dec. 12 for one there, and it was granted Dec. 20.
At the most recent increase request in 2015, meetings were held at Clover School District Auditorium in Clover and First Baptist Church in Rock Hill. Neither drew as many people as Lake Wylie meetings. River Hills Community Church has held hearings for past rate cases, often drawing 100 or more people and hours of testimony.
Public comments also can be mailed, emailed or submitted in an online form to the public service commission. As of noon Friday, six people commented, including a Fort Mill resident.
At the recent Camp Thunderbird meeting, more than 50 residents grilled utility staff and argued that numbers used to justify rate increases aren’t accurate or are misleading. Residents talked about poor water quality and charges for water even when they were away from home and weren’t using it.
None of those comments are part of the rate increase case. That meeting was informational, between the utility and residents. No members of the public service commission were there. Comments from that meeting would have to be given again in a public hearing or through submitting them to the public service commission.
According to the utility, rate changes throughout the system would increase revenues almost $4.6 million, or 23.65 percent.
Want to comment?
Full details about the proposed Carolina Water Service rate application are available at psc.sc.gov under “search/docket” tab. The docket number is 2017-292-WS.
Public comments can be mailed to Public Service Commission of South Carolina, 101 Executive Center Drive, suite 100, Columbia, SC 29210; emailed firstname.lastname@example.org; or submitted in an online form to the public service commission.