Fla. AG intervenes before commission to block revenue increase for water company

Attorney General Bill McCollum moved to intervene before the Public Service Commission (PSC) and will ask the PSC to deny a revenue increase requested by Aqua Florida. Depending on the system, the increase could be as high as 355 percent for water and 320 percent for wastewater service. Customers have complained that the increase is unconscionable not only because of the sharp increase, but also because of the poor quality of water being provided by the company...

• Customers have testified that the water is causing serious medical conditions

TALLAHASSEE, FL, July 25, 2008 -- Attorney General Bill McCollum today moved to intervene before the Public Service Commission (PSC) and will ask the PSC to deny a revenue increase requested by Aqua Florida. Depending on the system, the increase could be as high as 355 percent for water and 320 percent for wastewater service. Customers have complained that the increase is unconscionable not only because of the sharp increase, but also because of the poor quality of water being provided by the company.

"Companies should spend more time serving their customers and less time trying to turn an undeserved profit," said Attorney General McCollum. "These allegations are deeply troubling and I would want to see the water quality addressed before any increase is granted."

In June of last year, Aqua Florida petitioned for an 80 percent increase in water revenues and a 105 percent increase in wastewater revenues. The company subsequently agreed to withdraw its petition, make refunds to customers and improve customer service and water quality. However, testimony taken by the PSC in response to Aqua's recent request has revealed allegations that numerous customers are still being overcharged, customer service is substandard and the water quality remains poor.

"I have been fighting for quality water at reasonable rates for the people of my community, and I appreciate the intervention of Attorney General McCollum on their behalf," said Representative Sandy Adams, whose district encompasses the area serviced by Aqua Florida. "This situation illustrates how important it is to protect our citizens."

Of significant concern was the testimony regarding the community's health problems, which reportedly ranged from a number of miscarriages to birth defects and also included thyroid problems, skin diseases, and gastrointestinal ailments. Several residents testified their medical conditions seemed to improve when they quit drinking tap water and started using bottled water. Some parents also testified that their children's pediatricians had warned them not to let their children drink or even bathe in the water. Numerous persons also testified about losing family pets which died of excessive liver toxins and cancer. Tests conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection have also shown the water has extremely high levels of total trihalomethane, which is a by-product of chlorinated water and is considered by some to have seriously adverse health effects. Bacteria has also been reported in the water.

The PSC will consider Aqua's request for interim rate increase at its agenda conference on Tuesday, July 29. The Attorney General joins the Office of Public Counsel in opposing these rate increases while the water quality for these customers remains so poor and many customers continue to be overbilled.

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