Attorney general steps in to keep water company from hiking rates

by: Sarah Rosario Updated:

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MINT HILL, N.C. —

State Attorney General Roy Cooper is stepping in to keep Aqua North Carolina customers from paying more for water they can't even drink.

Eyewitness News reported the proposed 19.5 percent rate hike two months ago that would increase bills by $10 a month.

But customers said that's too much.

Aqua North Carolina customer Sharon Decker said she's tired of replacing her appliances.

"I've had to replace my dishwasher and you'd think this is 100 years old," Decker said.

The water that comes out of her tap looks brown and murky.

It's the same for other families in Mint Hill.

They've been complaining about it for years.

In November the company proposed a 19 percent rate increase, which is the third time it's asked state regulators for a rate increase in the past five years.

"If they approve it then we don't have a prayer," Decker said.

Now the attorney general's office is stepping in to help.

In a statement sent to Eyewitness News, Cooper's office said:

"Our office intervened in the Aqua rate case because we're concerned about the size of the proposed rate increase. ... We're also concerned about a proposed change that would allow Aqua to get certain future rate increases without a hearing."

In December protestors rallied against the water company at a public hearing. Aqua North Carolina's president defended the hike saying operating expenses are up.

A final public hearing will take place in Raleigh on Jan. 27.

After that the North Carolina's Utilities Commission will decide whether to approve the request.

Decker's hoping customers will continue to protest.

"This is their last chance," Decker said. "If they don't do it this time, then that's going to go through."

The water company has customers in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union and Iredell counties.

The attorney general's office said its next step will be to cross examine Aqua's witnesses at the hearing.

Tom Roberts, president of Aqua North Carolina, blamed the brown water color on a filter malfunction earlier this month.

He admitted that he would hesitate to drink the murky water but only because of how it looked and insisted it meets safety standards.

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