West Virginia American Water requests another rate increase

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Customers could end up paying an average of $11 more a month for water if utility regulators approve a rate request from West Virginia American Water.

The largest investor-owned water utility in the state, which serves about 545,000 people, asked for an additional $40.8 million in combined water and wastewater operations revenue in a request filed Friday.

That’s 26% more than the current rates, the company said in a statement published on its website. The average monthly residential sewer bill would jump from about $54 to almost $72.

“That’s a pretty substantial increase,” Robert Williams, director of the Consumer Advocate Division of West Virginia’s Public Service Commission, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Monday.

When the current Distribution System Improvement Charge on customers’ bills is factored in, the company says the totals would be $30.9 million — about 20% — more than current rates.

The rate rose 14% in 2019 and 15% in 2016, according to the Gazette-Mail. Williams told the newspaper that the improvement charge, which was approved in 2016, was intended to reduce the need for repeated increases.

Company president Robert Burton said in the Friday statement that the American Water subsidiary will have invested $252 million in infrastructure upgrades since its last rate change, which includes replacing 48 miles (77 kilometers) of pipelines and improving treatment processes.

“I want to emphasize that this request is not driven by the (coronavirus) pandemic and is based on our need to continue ongoing infrastructure improvements,” Burton said. “We will work with the Commission to address any issues they raise while they review our request.”

If the state Public Service Commission grants the request, the company said its new rates wouldn’t go into effect until Feb. 25, 2022, at the earliest.