New Jersey American Water filed for a rate increase yesterday with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to help cover the increased cost of serving more than one million residents statewide. The company's rates have not changed since April of 1999.
Since its last rate request in January 1998, the company has invested over 240 million dollars to replace and upgrade its facilities and infrastructure statewide to continue to provide high quality, reliable water service. While customers are already enjoying the benefits of many of these improvements, only a portion of the cost to finance them is covered in the company's current water service charges.
"Over the past five years, New Jersey American has taken aggressive steps to control our operating and maintenance expenses while being on the forefront of water treatment and technology. We have invested millions of dollars in our infrastructure and treatment plants and have earned awards from the Environmental Protection Agency for our commitment to water quality," said Andrew Chapman, president of New Jersey American.
The company has requested increased annual revenues approximately $52 million dollars or 20.65 percent. If approved, the average monthly residential bill will increase $8.12 per month, from $35.05 to $43.17 per month. Rates will remain unchanged until a final decision is made by the BPU on the new rates, which may take 6 to 9 months.
A breakdown of the company's investments include the following:
Source of supply projects
Tanks and pipelines
Treatment and pumping improvements
Upgrading meters and services
Sewer systems improvements
Equipment and software
"Even with this proposed rate increase, we believe we deliver an excellent product that our customers depend upon at an exceptional value," said Chapman. "One gallon of our tap water still costs less than one penny. Compare that cost to that of a gallon of bottled water, milk or orange juice."
Since its last rate request, New Jersey American has also launched its customer assistance program H2O Help to Others. This is the first and only assistance program provided by a water utility in the state. The program helps those who are economically challenged to pay their water bill.
New Jersey American's rate request will undergo extensive public scrutiny. The state ratemaking process requires a lengthy review by the BPU with input from the New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate, as well as evidentiary and public hearings before an administrative law judge. Customers will receive information in the mail explaining the increase.