Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Aqua Pa. details its steep rate increase and hits sewer users the hardest

An average monthly Aqua water bill is going up 12% to $77.51, and sewer bills are increasing 59% to $88.18 a month.

FaucetRead more

The cost for water and sewer service in the region is going up dramatically, especially for nearly half a million Aqua Pennsylvania customers, according to documents filed this week with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The monthly bill for an Aqua residential water customer in its main rate zone will go up 12% from $69.35 to $77.51, an $8.16 increase, according to the Bryn Mawr company’s tariff filed Monday, which translates the PUC’s May 12 rate increase approval into actual prices. The new rates take effect immediately.

An average Aqua residential wastewater bill will go up 59%, from $55.51 to $88.18, a monthly increase of $32.67 according to an Aqua spokesperson. That’s an average among 11 different Aqua rate zones. The water and wastewater bills are based upon households that use 4,000 gallons a month.

The detailed tariff filings came in response to the PUC’s unanimous approval of Aqua’s complicated rate request on May 12 that granted Aqua a $69.3 million increase in annual revenue, or about a 12.6% overall increase. The rate increase was less than Aqua’s original $97.7 million rate request, but more than double the $32 million increase recommended by Administrative Law Judge Mary D. Long in February.

Under the rate plan, a household with combined Aqua water and sewer service will pay $1,988.28 a year, up 33%, or an annual increase of $489.96.

» READ MORE: A Pa. law sets off a feeding frenzy for public water systems. Will customers pay the cost?

Most Aqua customers get only water service and pay a local entity for wastewater service, usually a town or a municipal authority. Aqua and other private companies in recent years have been aggressively buying up public sewer systems, which critics say is partly responsible for the soaring rates to pay for the premium acquisition prices, as well as expensive improvements to systems that have been neglected under public ownership.

Bills in some towns or developments could be higher or lower than Aqua’s averages. For instance, in the suburban Chester County development of Newlin Greene, near Kennett Square, wastewater customers pay as much as $161.35 a month based on 4,000 gallons of usage.

Aqua Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of Essential Utilities Inc., serves 440,000 water customers and 40,000 wastewater customers in Pennsylvania.

Under the new rate structure, customers in five towns where Aqua recently acquired municipal sewer systems will pay substantially higher bills under private ownership: Limerick Township, $78.53, up 98%; East Bradford, $104.75, up 47%; Cheltenham, $61.82, up 69%; East Norriton, $66.47, up 73%; and New Garden, $138.50, up 90%. All bills are for households that use 4,000 gallons a month.

The rates for other water and wastewater providers are also increasing as utilities modernize their aging systems to comply with stricter environmental regulations on wastewater discharges and water purification standards.

Pennsylvania American, the state’s largest private water company, has increased residential water bills 9% and sewer bills 30% in two steps over the last two years. The average monthly residential bill for a Pennsylvania American water customer is now $62.80 and $78.41 for wastewater. Those bills are for an average usage of 3,458 gallons a month.

In Philadelphia, where residential customers of the city’s Water Department pay about half as much as suburban customers of the private companies, a 6.4% increase is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1. A bill for a household using 3,740 gallons will increase $4.45 a month, to $73.60. That’s for water and wastewater service, as well as storm water fees, a cost that most suburban communities pay out of general tax revenue.