Disappointed by water rate ruling
I cannot tell you of the disappointment and disillusion I have experienced following the granting of this huge water rate increase. After reading the statements by the Commissioners in Order No. 2013-79, I was stunned. Some of these comments are:
“This was a vigorously contested case in which we saw an extraordinary level of participation from the ratepayers.”
“The case presents the Commission with difficult choices.”
“We are sympathetic to their arguments.”
“We heard loud and clear the protest by the ratepayers.”
By far the most damaging statement is: “While I remain very troubled by much of the testimony regarding various problems with the Applicant’s quality of service, we reluctantly adopt, in principle and result, the position of the Office of Regulatory Staff as reflected in its proposed Order, as we believe that recent precedent from the South Carolina Supreme Court Compels us to grant rate relief in this case.”
The above case referred to was brought by Utilities, Inc under the name of Utilities Services of SC, Inc. This is the same company that owns TCWS. The word compel is a verb that means “to force or oblige (someone) to do something. To bring about (something) by the use of force or pressure.” In fact, in the above case, Utilities, Inc stated that “An application for a rate increase must stand or fall on its own merits.”
Because the PSC stated they were compelled to grant a rate increase, I do not believe this case stood on its own merits. If we are to be compared to another case, why not the case where Carolina Water Services operating in River Hills was denied the 80 percent rate increase they requested in 2011? We had far more letters of protest than they did, we had more customers attend the public meeting in Tega Cay and the meeting in Columbia than River Hills. Yet, they won their case and we lost ours.
Where do we go in S.C. to get relief from these outrageous rate increases that are grated each time TCWS ask for another increase while they do almost nothing to improve this 40-year-old system that was designed to last 25 to 30 years? I have been assured by the lawyer at ORS they will be seeking another increase in the future. Is a return on equity of 9.00 percent and an operating margin of 11.60 percent considered a reasonable return in this economy?
I contacted the Office of Regulatory Staff. I stated that the consumers of TCWS are very upset with the decision of ORS and PSC. We put a tremendous amount of time into fighting this rate increase on top of the last three increases that TCWS has received. Each time we have fought this in the past there were numerous reasons we were defeated. This time, we corrected all of those reasons by documenting and testifying with our concerns and reasons why this rate increase should be denied but once again a rate increase was granted.
The average customer in Tega Cay now pays $49.95 per month for sewage and we still have sewage spills. On top of this cost, we pay for every drop of water that is flushed in the toilet. TCWS asked for a 34 percent increase in the water and received 33 percent. This in spite of all the boil water notices and the many leaks in the system.
TCWS had a sewer overflow on Jan. 17, 2013, that dumped 103,000 gallons of sewage into Lake Wylie which was nine days after the case was heard in Columbia and while they were still under enforcement. Did they get fined or was their permit taken from them? Tega Cay is not the only area that gets their drinking water from Lake Wylie and uses it for recreation.
Everyone in this section of South Carolina should be outraged by the fact that sewage is discharged into this lake.
I have asked for assistance from DHEC, ORS, and PSC to no avail. Where do I go now to get relief from Tega Cay Water Service? We have been treated rudely by the service personnel when we ask for assistance had our bills sent incorrectly, suffered multiple sewage spills into our lake, and had our water shut off after we had paid the bill. We have contacted the City of Tega Cay, the senator and representative of our area.
Are everyone’s hands tied when it comes to assisting 1,722 homes that are subject to these rate increases?
Linda K. Stevenson