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Water rates to jump for some Nassau residents

Southeast Nassau residents who are customers of Aqua Water will see a rate increase of about 12 percent over three years, the state Public Service Commission said Tuesday.

Aqua, which took over New York Water Corp. in 2007, had asked for a 12 percent to 27 percent rate hike. Neighborhoods served by Aqua - including Bellmore, Merrick, Wantagh and Massapequa - already pay more than twice as much for water than some of their neighbors in public water districts.

Tuesday, the commission adopted a three-year rate plan: The average customer's annual water bill will increase 9.14 percent this year, 1.57 percent next year and 1.95 percent in 2012, according to a statement from the commission. The average bill will be $643 in the first year, it said.

The decision was made reluctantly after four public hearings, said James Denn, commission spokesman.

"The commission thoroughly reviewed all of the records that . . . [were] put together in this case, including the nearly 3,000 public comments that came in and decided that the most appropriate rate increase would be the one it granted today," he said Tuesday.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will continue to fight to stop the increase, especially in light of the sagging economy: "Boosting Aqua's profits when customers in Nassau already pay the highest rates on Long Island is just plain wrong."

Nassau Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) also was outraged. "It's a joke to think that the Public Service Commission protects the ratepayers from this water monopoly," he said. "They continue to condone soaking the ratepayers."

Last week, Hempstead and Oyster Bay town officials changed their minds about appointing members to the Southeast Nassau Water Authority, Denenberg said. "I'm urging the towns to make the appointments so this water authority . . . can evaluate a takeover," he said.

Robert Ackerberg, 75, of Massapequa, said he's disappointed in the increase, but that it's no shock. "I'm not surprised because I think the Public Service Commission is very limited in what they can do," he said.

A spokeswoman for Aqua said officials were not prepared to comment Tuesday because they had not reviewed the commission's order.

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