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New York American Water hit with new complaints from residents over bills

New York American Water's Merrick headquarters.

New York American Water's Merrick headquarters. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Customers and lawmakers are raising new concerns about New York American Water Co. after ratepayers on the South Shore complained of spiking bills following the installation of new meters.

In a statement, the company said it is working with local lawmakers and the state Public Service Commission to look into the matter, and will release further information Monday.

“New York American Water is fully committed to our customers and the accuracy of its billing,” president Carmen Tierno said in a statement Friday.

But Barbara Levitz of Island Park isn’t convinced.

When New York American Water installed a new meter in her home earlier this summer, she said she thought it might save her money by providing more accurate readings.

But her first bill was more than three times her normal bill she said, $281 compared with a typical bill of $81. And some of her neighbors were seeing similar increases. When they called the company to complain, they were told it would be days before a representative could get to their homes to check. “I think it’s robbery,” said Levitz.

Since those complaints, several public officials, including Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook) and Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, have written to the Public Service Commission asking for answers.

Halie Meyers, a representative for Kaminsky, said the senator’s office has received  more than 100 recent complaints about New York American Water bills, some of which saw triple-digit increases.

The latest criticism of New York American Water Co. comes as a PSC investigation earlier this year found company employees intended to “deceive” state regulators during rate-increase proceedings in 2016 that sent bills soaring last year. The Nassau district attorney’s office is reviewing complaints from local officials who have called for an investigation into the company. The PSC report found New York American Water employees knew of “material errors” in tax calculations during the rate-hike proceedings but failed to notify regulators.

New York American Water’s 4,500 customers in and around Sea Cliff complained last year when water bills jumped after the company’s state-approved rate hike. The report by the state Department of Public Service came after months of investigation that previously found New York American Water overpaid its taxes by some $2.3 million, leading to customers overpaying by about $281,000. The company plans to provide $65 individual customer credits to compensate for the overpayments, pending state approval.

Gregory Gordon, a spokesman for the company, told Newsday recently that the company would look into the rate increases experienced by Levitz and other customers. He noted that the problem could be a leak, or that the previous meter was undercounting water use that the new meter counted more accurately.

Several days later, he sent a statement from New York American Water president Tierno, “thanking” Kaminsky, Gillen and Curran and acknowledging their letter.

Gordon would not say how many customers had complained.

Tierno said in the statement that the company’s review “will include an analysis of every customer that submitted an inquiry as well as a broader approach which will identify patterns.”

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