Deal would give Midlands’ utility water, sewer rate hike

tflach@thestate.comJanuary 21, 2014 

— About 12,000 homeowners and businesses around Lake Murray could pay more for water and sewage service soon.

A proposed compromise would add nearly $10 to the current average monthly residential bill of $76 for full service provided by Carolina Water Service. Others who receive partial service would pay at least $3 more per month.

Most Midlands’ customers of Carolina Water Service are in the Ballentine, Lexington and Oak Grove areas.

A deal giving the privately owned utility a $1 million rate increase – half of the amount sought – awaits approval by the S.C. Public Service Commission before it would go into effect.

The deadline for a rate hike to start is March 4. It’s the third increase the company has sought since 2008.

Company representatives, state consumer officials and residential groups settled on the smaller amount.

That agreement also would end a legal battle over a separate rate hike request in 2011 that was denied before the state Supreme Court ordered reconsideration.

“This would resolve all of that,” said Dukes Scott, executive director of the state Office of Regulatory Staff. His agency represents consumers in utility rate cases. Officials at the Chicago-based utility say higher rates are needed to update facilities and improve performance.

Homeowners are pressing for fewer billing errors and better response to calls for service.

Environmental groups want the company to reduce spills that pollute the lower Saluda River, popular for outdoor recreation.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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