Water service rates are going up for Metro East residential customers served by Illinois American Water Co.
The rates will affect both Alton District and Interurban (Metro East) District. Illinois American Water says customers using 4,500 gallons per month are expected to increase approximately 12 cents per day, or $3.54 per month.
Following an 11-month review, the Illinois Commerce Commission issued an order adjusting the rates. Ongoing enhancement and maintenance of the company’s water and wastewater infrastructure to ensure reliable treatment and delivery systems were the main drivers behind the rate change request filed on Jan. 21, 2016. Included in the rate change request was approximately $342 million in infrastructure investments across Illinois that was not previously reflected in rates.
“Periodic rate adjustments allow us to continue making critical investments in water plants, pumps and pipelines that help to enhance quality, service reliability, and fire protection for customers,” said Karen Cooper, operations superintendent for the Alton District. “Reliable water service is essential to everyday life and a community’s strong economy.”
In the Interurban District which serves Belleville, Granite City, East St. Louis and surrounding communities, investments included replacing and installing fire hydrants, valves, meters and more than 45 miles of water main. Also included was a significant electrical upgrade at the East St. Louis Water Treatment Plant for new control valves, a new 2.25 megawatt generator and updated power distribution switchgear to ensure reliability. Critical electrical and SCADA monitoring systems were also upgraded. Overhead electrical lines distributing power to remote parts of the plant were replaced with underground lines to ensure safety.
At both the East St. Louis and Granite City water treatment plants, the raw water intake piping systems were upgraded to ensure reliability. A new 1 million gallon elevated storage tank in East St. Louis provides storage and enhanced water pressure to customers. In addition, a new raw water pretreatment facility was constructed to remove sand and other heavy debris from the river water. This enhances the operational efficiency of the treatment process and reduces wear and tear on mechanical equipment.
Illinois American Water President Bruce Hauk said the company has worked to control costs, reducing operating expenses by about 3 percent since the last rate order, while providing customers with nationally recognized service. Illinois American Water received the J.D. Power award for ranking “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Water Utilities in the Midwest” according to J.D. Power’s 2016 Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study.
The utility also achieved the highest score in the region for price and communications. Hauk said, “Customer satisfaction is a top priority for our team. J.D. Power’s recognition of our team reinforces our efforts for continuous improvement so we can provide quality service at a fair price.”
The new rates resulting from the order are expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2017. The last change in base rates occurred over four years ago in 2012. Illinois American Water cannot change base rates without ICC approval.
The company estimates, pending final approval from the ICC staff, a residential customer with a 5/8-inch meter using 4,500 gallons of water per month will pay about 12 cents more per day, or $3.54 more per month. The monthly bill will be approximately $46.38 (excludes fire protection charges, municipal taxes and franchise fees, which vary by community). Customers will continue to receive quality, reliable water service at a good value.
According to Cooper, local investments included replacing and installing fire hydrants, valves, meters and approximately 6.5 miles of water main. Also included is the installation of an additional high service pump.
The need to upgrade water and sewer systems is a national challenge. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers said an estimated $1 trillion in capital spending would be needed across the nation over 25 years to replace thousands of miles of pipe, upgrade treatment plants and comply with stricter water quality standards. Illinois American Water says it is addressing this challenge.
Illinois American Water’s rates are based on the costs of providing water and sewer service as reviewed and approved by the ICC.
While many municipally-owned water systems are able to cover costs with taxes, fees and other revenue sources as a way to keep water bills lower, investor-owned, regulated water utilities are required to recover all costs through water rates charged on the customer’s bill. Customers will receive communication further explaining the rate change. Customers needing assistance paying their water bills can access the company’s H2O Help to Others program. The Salvation Army administers this program. Customers are urged to contact their local Salvation Army if they need assistance. Information can also be found at www.illinoisamwater.com.