Residents of the North Shore, Merrick and Lynbrook water districts found a letter from New York American Water in their mailboxes during the last week of October, and it wasn’t a water bill. It was a rate increase notice, signed off on by the New York Public Service Commission.
NYAW said in the letter that it needed additional revenue to cover its production costs and property taxes. According to the letter, residents of the North Shore district will see a 4.78 percent increase in their rates, Merrick residents will pay 5.57 percent more, and rates in Lynbrook residents will climb by 6.47 percent. The increases took effect on Nov. 1.
“New York American Water is employing every effort to manage the cost of water by reducing expenses, finding efficiencies and working with our customers in finding ways to reduce their bills through water conservation,” Lee Mueller, NYAW’s manager of external affairs, said in a statement. “Water providers throughout the region continue to face increasing costs and regulatory challenges in providing water that meets or surpasses all federal, state and local standards. It is our obligation to meet these challenges head-on and do so effectively, efficiently and responsibly on behalf of the 125,000 households we serve.
“When our customers conserve,” Mueller continued, “not only do they reduce their water bill, but New York American Water is able to defer infrastructure investment projects that are needed to meet peak water demand, which can reach as high as 50 million gallons of water a day in the summer. Conservation is important for helping our customers control their water bill, and it supports the long-term sustainability of Long Island’s sole-source aquifer, which is under significant stress.”
In August, Glen Head’s Agatha Nadel, a founding member of the anti-NYAW group North Shore Concerned Citizens, said that any relief ratepayers could have after the Village of Sea Cliff purchased NYAW’s old pumping station, on Prospect Avenue, would eventually be negated by surcharges such as the latest ones. She was hoping the PSC would block the rate hike and was disappointed that it didn’t, saying that many other residents felt the same. This is despite the fact that the increases seem small.
“This is now going to be another line on the bill,” Nadel said. “I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but these things all add up. I don’t want to pay this company one penny more than they deserve.”
Sea Cliff officials are working on hiring an engineering firm to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the community would benefit by changing water districts. Former State Sen. Carl Marcellino and Sen. Jim Gaughran provided grants of $80,000 and $75,000 for the study, respectively.
The study will examine the practical aspects of forming a public water entity, including the cost and infrastructure changes. It would also determine whether residents would be better served by a water district, where water is paid for by taxes and water bills, or a water authority, in which water is paid for solely by water bills. Gaughran said the area needs to establish a public water entity sooner rather than later, before the situation worsens for residents.
Gaughran, who chaired the Suffolk County Water Authority before he took office in 2018, has been a vocal opponent of NYAW’s presence on the North Shore. A moratorium on surcharges is necessary, he said, until the feasibility study is done.
“I think they’re outrageous,” Gaughran said. “We need the PSC to do a much more thorough review of what’s going on here.”
Nadel agreed that a moratorium is required for the well-being of NYAW’s ratepayers, which, she said, the company doesn’t care about. While it is important for residents to join the fight against NYAW directly, she said, she and others are in constant correspondence with county and state officials.
“We’re just trying to stay on top of the politicians, because they have the ultimate power,” Nadel said. “We can continue to raise awareness, but they have all the power.”