About a dozen residents rallied Sunday outside the Nassau County Legislature for improved water quality and to bring an end to what they said are unfair water rates on the South Shore.
Claudia Borecky, director of the advocacy group Long Island Clean Air Water and Soil, said residents in 44 Nassau communities — including East Rockaway, Roosevelt, Bellmore and parts of Merrick — are serviced by privately owned New York American Water and see significantly larger water bills than residents in public water districts. Borecky said the discrepancy is because about 40 percent of their bills go toward paying the company’s property taxes.
“All of us on New York American Water are paying property taxes that benefit everyone else,” David Denenberg, also a director of the advocacy group, said at the rally in Mineola.
Carmen Tierno, president of New York American Water, said Sunday in a statement that the company “meets or surpasses strict federal, state and local water quality standards,” and that it is “consistently on the forefront of researching and treating for emerging contaminants.”
Tierno added that in the past five years the company has returned more than $20 million in tax refunds.
“New York American Water’s rates reflect the true cost of providing water service, including property taxes paid by the company,” Tierno said. “The company contests property taxes that we consider to be excessive, and oftentimes we are successful.”
Protesters, who chanted and waved signs, called for the county to make water utility properties tax-exempt.
A Nassau County spokesman said only New York State could “make that designation by amending the real property tax law.”
Sue Moller, 38, of North Merrick, said she pays considerably more than her neighbors in public water districts.
“They can get bills where they’re paying $40, when ours can be over $200,” she said.
Others voiced concern that a private company would not be as transparent about its water quality as public entities.
“We’re asking for more transparency and for [New York American Water] to make everything open to the public and available online, so that we can see what’s in our water,” Borecky said.