New water, sewer hikes kick in July 1

Published On: Aug 06 2014 02:49:07 AM HST   Updated On: Jun 20 2014 10:00:47 AM HST

 With summer weather kicking in the demand for water is expected to rise.

But expect to pay the price.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz's report.

The Board of Water Supply says a hike of close to ten percent will mean Oahu residents will see a new 74-cent billing charge, and a 35-cent charge for every thousand gallons of water they use.

"For the average residential customer who uses about 13,000 gallons a month, that's about an increase of a little more than $5 a month.” said Board of Water Supply spokeswoman Jill Kuramoto.

Kuramoto said the hike is the fourth of a five-year hike to upgrade our aging water system.

"We operate 2,100 miles of pipe that is almost from here to the west coast of the  mainland and most of it is between 30-60 years old," Kuramoto said.

The hikes come as the Board of Water Supply appears to have finally tackled the soaring complaints from customers who questioned if they were being overcharged.

“It’s moving. That means someone is using water," said Waipio resident Karl Dicks who was inspecting his water meter.

Dicks was one of the customers who said his landlord was overcharged about $7,000  based on estimated-- not actual-- water use.

The Board of Water Supply made an adjustment, but Dicks is still fighting to get it reduced.

"The total overcharge was 678,000 gallons. They gave us credit for 90,000 so it’s not even close," Dicks said.

Dicks took to recording the household’s use every day for months to bolster his claim.

He disputes there was a leak.

His complaints prompted the installation of a new meter.

 "The new meter reads exactly what I told them I used," said Dicks.

He questions how the leak fixed itself, if the household's usage was pretty consistant.

”If I had a leak why didn’t it show up on the meter?” questioned Dicks.

He is still not satisfied, but his original complaint helped shed light on the growing problem with estimated readings.

Kuramoto says the snapshot overall is dramatically different now.

The department is now getting 98 percent of actual usage so the number of estimated bills has dropped considerably.

"The total number is down to 2 percent or less. For the month of May, we had less than one percent of estimated bills -- just a little over a thousand cases, and that’s a huge improvement," Kuramoto said.

Kuramoto credits staff for implementing new procedures for reading meters so if there are customers who receive two bills of estimated readings those cases are flagged for review.

Kuramoto said at the height of the problem the department was averaging about  1000 complaints a day.

In some cases , she said waits on the phone of up to 90 minutes, have been dramatically reduced to just a few minutes.

The July bills will also include a hike in sewer fees.

The hikes are part of a federal consent decree to fix the city’s aging sewer lines and sewage treatment plants.

The agreement calls for 10 years of hikes to cover a $1billion worth of upgrades with the percentage varying from year- to- year.



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