KINGWOOD — The State Public Service Commission has approved a 26.11% interim emergency rate increase for Public Service District 1 customers.
The order, issued Thursday, makes the interim rates effective immediately. The increase brings the minimum monthly bill for a 5/8-inch meter to $49.16 per month.
The commission also referred the district’s pending rate increase case to the PSC Division of Administrative Law Judges. A final decision is to be made by May 11, 2020.
The district said it needs a rate hike, “to avoid financial distress.” The district has had unexpected expenses since it was forced last year to draw water from alternate sources because the NRCS is replacing the dam at its previous water source.
On Sept. 13, the district requested an emergency interim rate increase of 34.2%. On Oct. 9, commission staff recommended an emergency interim rate increase of 26.11%.
As of Monday, the state had received 33 letters opposing the district’s proposal and none supporting it. The letters echo complaints made by customers since the switch to a temporary water source.
“I do not support a rate increase for PSD1. The water is not fit for consumption,” said one online comment to the PSC.
“They have repeatedly sent out letters where there were issues with the quality of the water after the fact. The water is brown, smells and is unusable. We are already paying for bottled water for drinking, cooking and other uses. Why should we be paying more for a product that cannot even be used?” the protester wrote.
The district has sought to address the issues and shows health department reports that the water is safe for human consumption. The district’s board is scheduled to make another report to the Preston County Commission at 9:35 a.m. today.
Other minimum monthly charges under the interim rates are $69.23 for a 3/4-inch meter; $115.39 for a one-inch meter; $230.78 for a 1.5-inch meter; $369.25 for a two-inch meter; and $738.50 for a three-inch meter.
Under the rates, customers will pay $15.39 per 1,000 gallons for the first 3,000 gallons used per month; $12.30 per 1,000 gallons for the next 3,000 gallons; $10.53 per 1,000 gallons for the next 4,000 gallons; $8.83 per 1,000 gallons for the next 10,000 gallons used; and $6.12 per 1,000 for anything over 20,000 gallons per month.