Rowan County residents near coal ash site say they are overcharged for county's water service

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — After years of drinking, cooking and even bathing with bottled water, residents near a coal ash site in Rowan County are finally using county water.

But now, they say they are being overcharged for that service.

"I wasn't aware of how much we were gone be charged,” Rowan County resident Deborah Graham said.

Residents in the Dukeville area of Rowan County recently started receiving county water, but were surprised to learn they'd pay a minimum of $68.50 a month for it.

Duke Energy paid to run water lines to residents near coal ash ponds at the company’s Buck Steam Station to provide them with a new water supply.

Rowan County purchases the water from the city of Salisbury and then sells it to neighbors.

“We have to pay the middle man now, which is county commissioners, and it is an outrageous amount,” resident Bonita Queen said.

County manager Aaron Church said the rate is essential to provide the service and he said the county isn’t turning a profit.

“There is no wiggle room,” Church said. “We're required by state law to pay for enterprise funds with enterprise fund money. We cannot take money out of general fund and prop up the water fund. It has to be self – sustaining.”

Channel 9 contacted the city of Belmont, which just hooked up coal ash residents to city water. The average water bill for them last month was $56.77.

"You can't compare Rowan County's water with Belmont because Rowan has a new system,” Church said. “We only have 150 customers.”

Residents are concerned after they say a stipend that was given to them by Duke Energy to pay their new water bills may not be enough if the prices go up.

Church said staff members met with neighbors in two public meetings last year to let them know what the rates would likely be.

He said the rates were set during a public meeting last summer.

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