New York American Water in Merrick in 2018. 

New York American Water in Merrick in 2018.  Credit: Danielle Silverman

Michael Serao of Hewlett Harbor said his August water bill of $1,377.90 from New York American Water is the biggest he’s ever received, and if the company has its way, that bill could jump to more than $2,000 next month. 

Serao is about to join more than 120,000 customers of the Merrick-based water company who are facing a rate hike of up to $10 a month as of Sept. 1 after the company received permission to forestall an increase that was supposed to go into effect in April.

For Serao, who said he worked with the company to institute costly conservation measures and cut his usage almost in half, the prospect of a higher bill is daunting. He said he’s already called in an irrigation specialist to drill him a private well to water the lawn on his sprawling property.

“So far this year I’ve paid over $5,000 just to water my lawn,” he said. “It’s nuts. I can’t believe the politicians are going to allow this to go on. Someone needs to step in. How is anybody going to afford to live here?”

Three state senators earlier this month sent a letter to New York American Water requesting that it halt the increase.

“With our state in the midst of a pandemic and economic turmoil, it would be inappropriate and insensitive to raise rates on struggling Long Islanders, especially when water rates are already sky-high,” wrote Sens. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), John Brooks (D-Seaford) and Jim Gaughran (D-Northport).

The new rates will apply to the approximately 120,000 customers in Nassau, from Lynbrook and Merrick to the Sea Cliff area.  

“The senators’ request for a further delay in the rate increase will be reviewed and considered,” said James Denn, spokesman for the Public Service Commission.

Customer bills were scheduled to jump between $4 and $10 a month on April 1 before the company, along with other utilities, agreed to delay the hike at lawmakers’ urging.

“The fastest path toward significant rate relief is reducing the unfair tax burden levied on our customers,” New York American Water spokeswoman Lee Mueller said in a statement. “Significant rate relief isn’t achieved by further delaying the incremental rate increase that was approved in 2017,” she added, noting that property taxes make up 31% to 55% of customers’ bills.

Grumbling about the rate hike comes as local government leaders and ratepayer groups make moves to take segments of the water company public. In a letter last month to PSC chairman John Rhodes, Brooks wrote that he was preparing legislation to create a new South Shore Water District to accommodate the takeover. Gaughran has already introduced legislation to create a North Shore Water Authority.

Brooks asked the PSC to extend until Dec. 31 the deadline for proposals to take public parts of the water system.

Officials in the Massapequa Water District have already studied the prospect of taking over New York American Water’s East Massapequa district, and customers, and found it feasible. The Town of Hempstead has commissioned a study to determine whether it’s feasible to take over the customers and infrastructure within the town.

WATER WOES

APRIL 1

Date rates were scheduled to increase

SEPT. 1

Date new rates are scheduled to take effect

DEC. 31

Date the Public Service Commission is being asked to extend the deadline for proposals to take parts of the water system public

120,000

Customers affected by the rate hike

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