Aqua Proposing a $14.2M Rate Hike

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By Karen Haave
Water and sewer bills for Will County residents served by Aqua Illinois will be going up if the company’s proposed rate hike is approved later this year. Aqua has applied for a $19.2 million rate hike for the 14 counties it serves in Illinois, including Will. 
Shane Gustafson, Morreale Communications, said water-only customers will see an increase of $8.50, while water and wastewater combined customers will see an increase of $21.91, if approved.
According to the legal notice recently published by Aqua Illinois, “If this rate request is granted, in full as filed, an average combined monthly residential wastewater and water bill (4,000 gallons) would increase by $29.91 ($1 per day) to $152.87. The estimated bill impact may vary based on multiple factors, including – but not limited to – meter size, usage volume, and public fire protection charges. The bill impact also will depend upon the nature of the service received and will differ for those customers taking wastewater service only, water service only, or wastewater service on a flat rate charge instead of a usage-based charge. The proposed changes in wastewater rates are set out in Tariff ILL. C.C. No. 50, Section 6, filed with the ICC, and the proposed changes in water rates are set out in Tariff ILL. C.C. No. 49, Section 8, filed with the ICC. 
“The last rate case impacting Aqua Illinois, Inc., customers was filed on May 1, 2017. This request will undergo a review by the ICC for up to 11 months. The approximate date of the change(s), if approved by the ICC within the statutory 11-month process, is December 2, 2024. However, the effective date of any change(s) approved by the ICC will differ for those systems that may not be subject to full consolidated rates as of that date, in accordance with the terms and conditions of certain Asset Purchase Agreements approved by the ICC. 
“If the request is approved by the ICC, the changes for all classes of water and wastewater service statewide would result in an increase to base rates of $19,196,140.” 
The legal notice also notes that: “The rates you pay directly benefit your community. Aqua Illinois’ improvements have increased reliability and enhanced process improvements source-of-supply and water treatment. They have included distribution system improvements to enhance water quality. Depending upon the nature of service provided in your community, examples may include:
  • Wastewater treatment plant improvement projects to replace aging and deteriorating equipment, which will prevent service interruptions and improve operational efficiency; 
  • Lift station replacement projects to replace undersized and/or aged equipment to reduce and minimize service interruptions and backups; 
  • Infiltration and Inflow reduction projects to extend service life of infrastructure and reduce costs associated with treatment; 
  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) projects to replace obsolescent data collection and historian equipment to increase service reliability and operational effectiveness;
  • Water treatment plant additions to improve water quality, increase capacity and reliability, and accommodate industrial growth; 
  • Improvement of well pumps and equipment to increase reliability and sustainability;
  • Replacement of aged water meters to improve accuracy of water usage data and reduce non-revenue water; 
  • New and replaced fire hydrants to improve fire protection and water quality due to additional flushing capability; 
  • Replacement of aging and deteriorating water mains to improve water quality, pressure, service reliability, and fire protection services; and 
  • Construction of water main emergency interconnects for system reliability.”
“Aqua Illinois is committed to best serving our customers,” said Dave Carter, president of Aqua Illinois. “This change to our rate structure, the first in six-and-a-half years, helps ensure we maintain and improve quality water and wastewater services for years to come. We’re continuing to upgrade our systems, and we appreciate the support and understanding from our customers as we work together to make improvements to our local communities.”
Local municipalities that would be impacted include Peotone, Monee, and University Park.
Peotone’s village-owned utility system was sold to Aqua in a multi-million dollar deal in 2017. Its well water was expected to be replaced by Kankakee River water in 2020, but the final connection has seen multiple delays. Residents there have voiced concern about higher utility bills since the sale was finalized.
Village Administrator Aimee Ingalls said the new rate proposal would not impact Peotone until the system is hooked up for Kankakee River water.
“We did see the notification Aqua sent out regarding their request for a rate increase,” she said.“The village has not connected to the new water source from Aqua yet and, according to the purchase agreement, rates would not increase for village residents until that source switch is complete. I do not have an anticipated connection date yet. We continually ask Aqua for updates as they work through the IEPA requirements for the switch. The village will monitor the request as it is reviewed by the ICC, but we have no plans to protest at this time.”
Ingalls said she could not “with 100 percent certainty” say when bills are sent, the average bill amount, or how the rate hike will impact residents, because billing is done by Aqua.
In Monee, consumers would only see an increase in the wastewater portion of their bills because potable water there is supplied by village wells. But the more water used, the higher the wastewater portion of their bill will be. 
Village Administrator Ruben Bautista said the current sewer rate is $64.97 and includes the first 4,000 gallons. Beyond the first 4,000 gallons, sewer is billed at $7.40 per thousand.
“Average water usage varies greatly from household-to-household,” he noted, “but ranges from 60-100 gallons per person per day for toilet flushing, washing machines, showers, dishwashers, etc.”
Monee utility bills include trash pickup and capital improvement fees. Calculated and mailed by the village, the bi-monthly bills, on average, total around $314.42 for a family of four. 
Bautista did not say whether Monee officials would oppose the rate hike.
In University Park, officials have been critical of Aqua over elevated levels of lead in their water since August 2019.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow filed a lawsuit against Aqua in August 2019, alleging the company made changes to the public water system that removed the protective scale on plumbing and solder in homes, causing lead to contaminate the drinking water. The complaint further alleged Aqua violated state construction and operating permit requirements, failed to comply with monitoring and sampling requirements for residents, and created a public nuisance.   
Three months later, Raoul and Glasgow filed an agreed interim order that required Aqua to provide free bottled water and faucet filter devices to impacted residents within the area of Aqua’s issued lead advisory. The order also required Aqua to conduct tap water sampling and offer blood lead level testing upon residents’ requests. The proposed consent order includes a process for Aqua to cease providing bottled water and filter devices. 
Last fall, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow filed a motion to enter a consent order with Aqua Illinois. Subject to court approval, the settlement would resolve a lawsuit filed by Raoul’s and Glasgow’s offices in 2019 alleging Aqua had failed to provide safe drinking water to certain residents in and around the village of University Park who relied on the public water system, which Aqua owns and operates.
But last week, the issue returned to court, where UP officials asked Will County Judge John Anderson to consider allowing them to intervene in that lawsuit. Intervention would allow UP to be involved in the lawsuit and have a say in any contested motions and/or settlement. 
If UP officials want the agreement to represent an end to the lawsuit, then Judge Anderson would need to sign off on it. University Park reportedly does not want that and, instead, wants to be allowed to participate in the path to a resolution in the case.
Judge Anderson declined comment on the issue, but did say he is hoping to have a decision soon.
Attempts to reach University Park Mayor Joseph Roudez III and Village Manager Elizabeth Scott for additional comments on the proposed rate high or lawsuit intervention were unsuccessful.
In the meantime, according to Aqua’s legal notice, “Any interested party may file a petition to intervene in the hearings pursuant to 83 Ill. Adm. Code 200. Pursuant to Section 8-306 of the Public Utilities Act, 220 ILCS 5/8-306, customers may request the ICC hold a public hearing related to the company’s rate request. A copy of the proposed change in rate schedules may be inspected by any interested party at the business office of the company at 1000 South Schuyler Avenue in Kankakee. All parties interested in the matter may obtain information with respect thereto either directly from Aqua Illinois or by addressing the Chief Clerk of the Illinois Commerce Commission, 527 East Capitol Avenue, Springfield, Illinois 62701.”

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1 Comment

  1. Richard & Sheila Beatty on February 28, 2024 at 7:37 pm

    Aqua publishes several bullet point items, that appear to me are normal maintenance items, Do the contracts with municipalities reflect an exchange of information and proof of said maintenance and replacement of equipment as needed? Seems like this is pouring money into a funnel with aqua at the recieving end, compared to school districts that levy more taxes while their students decrease and grade achievments fall.
    Our elected officials need to take a stricter line with vendors, make them prove work and need.




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