Pearl Bluth of Woodmere addresses American Water executives during a...

Pearl Bluth of Woodmere addresses American Water executives during a meeting organized by local officials and filled with south shore residents in East Rockaway on Aug. 9, to demand answers as to why residents' water bills have skyrocketed. Credit: Danielle Silverman

New York American Water has resumed mailing bills to customers after a two-week suspension, but those hit with spiking charges shouldn’t expect immediate credits or refunds.

In a statement Saturday, the company said it would extend the due date for August bills, which were being mailed to customers this weekend.

Credits and other relief will follow in future months pending court and state approvals, the company said.

The company has been dealing with an avalanche of high-bill complaints in Nassau after a new conservation rate went into effect earlier this year and water use increased.

After more than a thousand angry customers kicked up a fuss, the company reached a settlement with the state Department of Public Service that includes suspension of that rate through 2018, eliminating a fourth tier of usage charges. The settlement awaits state Supreme Court approval.

The company, which is fielding multiple state and local investigations tied to intentional deception of New York regulators during rate hike proceedings in 2016, said credits and other rate relief for customers would show up on customer bills in future billing cycles after the court approves the settlement.

“This entire process may take several billing cycles, but please be assured that all parties are working as quickly as possible,” the company said. “In the meantime, our goal is to give you as much information as possible on the rate structure and ways you can reduce your bill.”

Customers who believe they were overcharged need not pay disputed amounts until the disagreement is resolved. Refunds for charges paid from that suspended fourth tier are retroactive to April, when the conservation rate went into effect, officials said. Late charges will not be levied.

New York American Water suspended delivery of August bills in midcycle after more than 1,200 customers flooded the company with complaints about bills that were double or triple normal summer charges. Hundreds of customers packed a meeting in East Rockaway earlier this month to vent their anger and demand relief, including demanding a public takeover of the shareholder-owned company.

Barbara Levitz of Island Park, whose bill more than tripled to $281 in July, said Saturday she had already paid her August bill of $151 and wasn’t banking on a credit, though she believed she was wrongly charged.

“I don’t believe a thing they say,” said Levitz, who said she wrote “paid under protest,” on her check to the water company.

She’s shut off her sprinkler system for the summer, fearful of another high summer bill, she said. 

Not all are happy with the settlement, noting that the conservation rate  will restart in April, along with another rate increase.

The embattled company signed an agreement with the state on Aug. 18, 2018, to resolve the DPS high-bill probe of its more than 120,000 Nassau customers, most on the South Shore. It still faces probes by the state attorney general, New York State and Nassau comptrollers and an unspecified review by the Nassau district attorney, which has criminal jurisdiction.

“We thank our customers for their patience as we work toward implementing the agreed upon rate relief, increasing our communications with customers and restoring their confidence,” William Varley, deputy chief operating officer of parent American Water, said in a statement.

After the court approves the settlement, the company will file with the state to reduce rates $6.4 million. Credits will then be issued.

Customers with questions about bills can call 877-426-6999 .

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