CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The average West Virginia American Water residential customer in most places would see his or her bill go up by nearly $3 under a proposed agreement between the utility and the state Public Service Commission.
The agreement, announced Tuesday, would increase water rates by 7.1 percent for about 181,000 customers. It was reached after negotiations between West Virginia American Water, PSC staff and the PSC Consumer Advocate Division.
The three-member PSC must decide whether to accept the agreement by Oct. 11.
"We have approved it. We think it is a fair and reasonable settlement in the public interest," said Tom White, a lawyer for the PSC Consumer Advocate Division.
According to the company, the bill for an average customer using 3,315 gallons of water a month would rise from $39.11 to $41.88.
West Virginia American Water originally asked for a 19.7 percent increase in water rates, which would have come to $24.1 million annually. Tuesday's agreement would bring in $8.1 million a year for the water company.
West Virginia American Water says the main factor in its rate increase requests is $85 million in improvements since 2009, including "upgrades to the distribution system, water treatment facilities, storage tanks, pumping stations and computer systems."
"This agreement is based on extensive negotiations and substantial compromises by all parties as a way to expedite and simplify the resolution of this case," Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water, said in a news release. "We, along with the other parties involved, hope that the commission will accept this stipulation as a fair and reasonable resolution with the best interest of our customers at its core."
Under the agreement reached Tuesday, Fayetteville residents would see an additional increase to help pay for repairs to the local sewage-treatment system that West Virginia American Water acquired in 2008.
Last December, West Virginia American Water asked for an increase of $476,000 in annual charges for sewer services provided to about 1,100 customers in Fayetteville. Under the agreement reached Tuesday, that increase was reduced to $337,412.
The Fayette County sewer system is the only one operated by West Virginia American Water. Local municipalities operate all the other sewer systems in the company's area.
Tuesday's joint stipulation modifies the company's original proposal by shifting $231,151 in proposed Fayette County sewer system costs to the company's other customers -- a move that upset at least one of those customers.
Lee Feinberg, a lawyer who represents Huntington-based West Virginia Steel, questioned the proposed sewer assessment.