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New proposals to hike water bills, again, more than 7 percent for some Nassau customers

The Long Island headquarters of New York American

The Long Island headquarters of New York American Water in Merrick. Credit: Danielle Silverman

New York American Water customers in Nassau County face new surcharges this year of 4.33 percent to 5.07 percent under a set of proposals recently filed with state regulators.

Monthly bills for residential customers in Merrick, Lynbrook and Sea Cliff and surrounding service areas could jump from 97 cents for low-water users or up to $6.34 for bigger users, according to filings with the state Public Service Commission. 

In addition to those revenue and property tax surcharges, New York American Water is proposing separate system improvement charges that would raise bills by another 2.41 percent for Lynbrook-region customers, and 0.83 percent for Merrick and Sea Cliff customers, the company said.

A letter accompanying the surcharge requests says they would be instituted Aug. 1, but the company has since filed a letter amending the filing to request a Nov. 1 implementation date for  the 4.33 percent to 5.07 percent surcharges. 

Earlier this year, the company instituted a state-approved conservation rate that hiked average bills 7.95 percent in the Lynbrook area, 7.52 in Merrick and 1.82 in Sea Cliff, according to a public notice. 

Ratepayers and watchdog groups who protested the company’s already enacted four-year rate hike aren’t happy about the newly proposed charges, some of which would take effect in August, others in November. 

“There is no end to their audacity,” said David Denenberg, executive director of watchdog group Long Island Clean Air, Water and Soil in Merrick, which has been pushing for a public takeover of the water company. “They know they can get it, and they know the state will allow them to charge it.”

Department of Public Service spokesman John Chirlin said the agency was reviewing the latest surcharge proposals and "should have a recommendation for the Public Service Commission by the end of the year."

Lee Mueller, spokeswoman for New York American Water, said part of the surcharge increase is related to higher property taxes, which "make up a significant portion of our customers’ bills — up to 59 percent, depending on service area — and this mechanism serves to collect unpaid taxes, as well as unrealized revenue consistent with the rate plan."

In service area two, which includes Merrick and Sea Cliff, monthly bills for residential customers could increase between 97 cents for low users, or $6.34 for high-uses. Nonresidential customers in Merrick would see hikes of between $1.84 and $8.24 depending on usage, according to the filing.

In service area one, which includes Lynbrook and East Rockaway, a 6.47 percent increase will hike residential customer bills by between $1.70 and $11.97. Nonresidential customers will see monthly increases from $2.96 for low users, or $13.09 for high users.

The company's filing includes a separate schedule of tax and revenue surcharges "for informational purposes" only for regulators that shows a 10.32 percent hike for Sea Cliff customers and a 4.33 percent hike for Merrick customers, if the charges were to be implemented separately. High users in Sea Cliff, under that schedule, would see a monthly increase of nearly $20. Mueller said the company is not proposing such a plan. 

The system improvement charges are for projects already approved and completed but not covered in base rates, said Mueller. “They are important infrastructure projects for our customers. They are helping to meet peak demand and improve water quality for our customers.”

But one customer wasn't having it.

“It’s really a slap in the face,” said George Pombar, president of the Glen Head-Glenwood Civic Council, who noted his bill recently quadrupled because of summer sprinkler use. “Enough is enough.”

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