Saturday, April 01, 2006

Lakewood - Water problems

APP: As Jersey Shore residents struggle with increases in the cost of energy, many of them may soon face higher water bills. New Jersey American Water Co., which has about 95,000 residential customers in 36 towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties, filed a request Friday with the state Board of Public Utilities to raise rates 23 percent. If approved, the water bill for the average New Jersey American Water customer, who uses 7,000 gallons of water a month, will rise by $8.89 per month, from $38.51 to $47.40. The proposal follows a 9.85 percent increase in 2004 and a 5.85 percent rise in 1999. Neptune resident Donald Dworzak, 75, said the increase "is not going to break me." But at the same time, his income from savings, investments and Social Security is not keeping up with percentage increases in everything from electricity to gasoline, he said. A proposed water rate increase doesn't help. "It is putting me in a negative position and I am not too happy about that," Dworzak said. "So far I have been able to just get by." He wondered how the water company could justify such a large percentage increase...........We feel these are very high rate increases," Singh said. "We want to make sure these are legitimate numbers, and we want to look at how it is going to impact" customers. New Jersey American Water said it needs the rate increase to cover costs it has spent on infrastructure upgrades and increased energy expenses. Since its last rate request in 2003, the company has spent $140 million to replace and upgrade its facilities and sources of water supply, spokeswoman Lendel G. Jones said. Meanwhile it has absorbed increases in energy costs. New Jersey American also has installed two miles of 20-inch water mains in Neptune, Neptune City and Belmar, improving the flow of water to fire hydrants. Other improvements include a new main to bring water from Howell to Lakewood. There also were infrastructure improvements in Asbury Park and Aberdeen, Jones said. "When it comes to providing people with clean, potable water, if you don't have the infrastructure in the ground to do that, we are not going to be able to perform our job," Jones said. Meanwhile, costs such as the price of pipe and chemicals used to treat water have increased......
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