Several dozen Nassau County residents, interest groups and politicians came together at a Oct. 26 public hearing to comment on an 8.4 percent rate hike sought by New York American Water to pay for infrastructure, taxes and water delivery costs. The hearing was organized and chaired by the Department of Public Service and held at Malverne Village Hall.
Despite a 1:00 pm start time, the hearing attracted over four dozen people, with the majority being from Merrick, Bellmore, Baldwin, West Hempstead and Lynbrook. Most took a turn at the podium to express their concerns to Guy Mazza, acting director of the Department of Public Service’s Long Island office. Mazza said all public comments would be part of a formal case record, and would be presented to the Public Service Commission, which may adopt, reject or modify the water’s company’s proposal. According to information released by DPS, the water company filed for new water rates to be effective April 1, 2017.
Charles Meyers, a Lynbrook resident, said he didn’t hear a full explanation as to why, specifically, the water company was requesting a rate hike. “They need to explain in plain English so people can understand what’s going on,” said Meyers. “Just be straightforward. If they’re going to raise the bill, say specifically why.” New York American Water has not explained in detail how the revenue increase would be allocated.
West Hempstead resident Zehava Schechter, an attorney, said that she’d like the ability to change water suppliers, because her neighbors receive their water from West Hempstead. Schechter said several company executives have taken water samples from a main in front of her house, and she is still waiting, months later, to receive testing results she has requested several times.
Two people spoke in favor of the increase, one of them being Dennis Kelleher, president of H2M Water, an engineering firm which services municipal water clients. Kelleher spoke of the American Society of Civil Engineers report card detailing the state of the nation’s water infrastructure, which he said received a D+ rating. “I think everyone will agree that a grade of D+ isn’t acceptable,” he said. Kelleher emphasized that the magnitude of the situation, and the need for upgrades, by also citing the American Waterworks Association report, “Buried No Longer.” “The report estimated that the water industry needs to invest $1 trillion in our water system over the next 25 years,” he said. “The bottom line is that water rates for all water suppliers across the United States will continue to increase.”
Rachel Burd, who represents the Public Utility Law Project of New York, a nonprofit law firm that advocates for low and fixed income residents, said, “The escalating cost of water … when added to escalating cost of electricity from LIPA and gas from National Grid, and the increasing cost of living on Long Island — one wonders when people will move somewhere cheaper, and hollow out the economy of Long Island.”
A second public hearing was held later the same day at Wantagh High School, where more than two dozen people protested the proposed hike, citing dirty water with low pressure, low-quality service and bills six times the size of their neighbors'.
People interested in reviewing case documents and monitoring the proceedings can do so from the DPS website: www.dps.ny.gov. From the homepage, click on “search” and enter case number 16-W-0259. Residents may also submit comments on this public hearing through November 4 by calling 1-800-335-2120.