Aqua Indiana seeks 29.8 percent hike in sewage-treatment rates

March 14th, 2016

News Coverage:

March 12, 2016

Aqua Indiana seeks 29.8 percent hike in sewage-treatment rates

Kevin Leininger | News-Sentinel

When the city paid about $50 million for Aqua Indiana's water system in southwest Allen County two years ago, Mayor Tom Henry touted the resulting $10 reduction in monthly bills for the private utility's 13,000 customers.

Now many of those same customers could be facing a 29.8 percent increase in their sewer bills in part because the deal also allows the city to ship 1.5 million gallons of sewage per day to the private utility's plant in Aboite Township for treatment – a plant slated for an $8.5 million expansion that will allow it to accommodate the city's waste and anticipated future growth in the area. Aqua Indiana this month asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to approve a rate increase that would boost the monthly bill for a typical metered residential customer from $42.97 to $55.77 and from $59.21 to $76.83 for customers on well water who pay an unmetered rate. Aqua also seeks authority to establish a one-time charge of $1,300 per estimated daily unit (about 310 gallons per day of wastewater flow per single family home) for new customers connecting to the sewer system.

The increase isn't solely a response to the pact with the city, however, according to Aqua Area Manager Jeff Gard.

"This is the first time in six years we've asked for an increase," Gard said, noting that the contract with the city prohibited a rate increase for at least a year. Through June 30, the company will have made $27.8 million in capital improvements since then and has no intention of stopping, he added. In addition to enlarging the capacity of the treatment plant at 6811 Engle Road from 1.7 million gallons per day to 3.5 million, Aqua has also pledged to spend $25,000 per year to provide sewer service to homes on septic systems and is planning a new office off Indiana 14.

If approved by the state, the higher rates would be phased in over two years, Gard said, probably taking effect early next year. The higher rate could boost Aqua's annual operating revenues by about 25 percent, which Gard said would be capped at about $2.37 million. Customers in Whitley and Huntington counties would also be affected.

Customers with questions about the proposal can contact the company weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 1-877-987-2782.