SCWA approves rate hike
OAKDALE— On Tuesday, March 26, the Suffolk County Water Authority voted 5-0 to increase water rates by 6.6 percent for the majority of customers.
The average customer uses 160,000 gallons. These homeowners will see their water bills go from $409 to $436, which equates to a $27 increase. The increase is higher than the last two years, which saw between 3 and 4 percent spikes.
The rate increase goes toward SCWA’s $138 million operating budget for 2019-2020, which is up $5 million from this year. The $80 million capital budget, though, is down $4 million from this year.
The move also creates a two-tier system, which applies to customers who use more than twice the average amount of water in a given quarter. Officials said the plan would apply to about 70,000 customers—those who use over 78,540 gallons per quarter. SCWA, in an effort to boost conservation, will charge a 20 percent premium to those who go over the set amount.
These customers mostly include golf courses, National Grid, Suffolk County, Stony Brook University, and estates on the East End of Long Island.
Water officials said customers use the most water in the summer months. They also agreed to revisit customer rates sometime in the fall, once the busy season is over, to see if the incentives are working.
SCWA, the largest groundwater supplier in the country, serves about 1.2 million customers, making up the majority of Suffolk’s approximately 1.5 million residents.
Chief executive officer Jeffrey Szabo recently described SCWA’s rates as “relatively low” when compared to other drinking water providers in the tri-state area and across the country.
Szabo also noted that New York American Water, another provider that services about 350,000 residents in the southwestern portion of Nassau County, charges about twice as much as SCWA, while other providers across the country might charge up to four or five times as much.
New rates take effect on April 1.
SCWA also held a public forum earlier this week in Oakdale, where they discussed drinking water quality with local residents. Experts spoke about a number of topics, but mainly focused on efforts to remove three different contaminants that have been detected in Long Island’s water supply.
This publication reported on these efforts in the article “SCWA supports stricter water standards,” published on March 14, 2019.
Two of the detected contaminants, PFOA and PFOS, are used in a number of capacities, but are frequently used in water-resilient clothing, fast-food packaging and firefighting foam, while the third, 1,4-dioxane, is used as a stabilizer in paint strippers and solvents.
Many local residents were disturbed to hear that 1,4-dioxane can’t be removed with standard filtering. An advanced oxidation process must take place first.
About a year ago, SCWA implemented a 1,4-dioxane removal system at one of its wells on Commercial Boulevard in Brentwood. The system cost about $1.5 million without operating fees and was the first of its kind in New York State, which doesn’t currently regulate PFOA/PFOS and 1,4-dioxane.
However, the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council recently recommended that the state Department of Health adopt the country’s strictest water standards against these contaminants. SCWA has since voiced its support of the regulations.
Szabo previously said that New York State is still reviewing the data from SCWA’s 1,4-dioxane removal prototype, but the results from the first year look “optimistic.” He also mentioned that about 240 out of Long Island’s 600 wells have detections of 1,4-dioxane.
Officials also told local residents, earlier this week, that SCWA has issued lawsuits against numerous manufacturers, including DOW Chemicals, which produce the contaminants.
Any awards they receive from the lawsuit, officials said, would be used to help defray some of the capital and operating costs for the well upgrades. The potential awards, though, are years away, officials added.
The recent rate increases, though, will not go towards future efforts to remove the detected contaminants.
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