Problems have some water customers boiling mad

August 8, 2013 5:39:03 AM PDT
People living in a North Durham neighborhood say they're boiling mad because they've been under a boil water advisory for a week. They say their private water company, Aqua North Carolina, was slow to alert them.

They're also frustrated because this week, they learned their water provider wants them to pay more for their water service.

"I want to know what's in my water, whether it's hazardous to me, my kids, my wife," said Aqua North Carolina customer Neil Rosemond.

Customers of the Greymoss-Fitzgerald water system - which serves the Greymoss subdivision west of Guess Road - say they got the boil water advisory a week ago - two days after a monthly test on their wells came back positive for coli form bacteria.

"I'd like to know how long this has been an issue - to the first sample, to the positive sample, to when they've cleared up," said Rosemond.

Coli form is not harmful, but it can be an indicator of other bacteria like e-coli.

Aqua North Carolina says it followed government guidelines requiring it to notify customers within 30 days.

On July 29, Aqua North Carolina conducted its routine water tests. The following day one of four samples came back positive. The company performed another round of tests on July 31. It got the same results the next day, which is when an automated message went out.

ABC11 talked to the President of Aqua North Carolina Tom Roberts by phone. He told us the private company has hundreds of water systems statewide and notifying customers about all test results every month would be difficult.

In this case, no harmful bacteria were found.

"The water is safe to drink," said Roberts. "That's why it was an alert to our customers and maybe not something that was a little more stringent."

Aqua's president says the boil advisory is a precaution. However, residents also got an email telling them to store either bottled or boiled water while crews worked on a nearby well.

"You're going to charge me for something, I want to be able to drink it," said Rosemond.

Adding to their frustrations, customers learned just this week that Aqua is asking for a rate hike.

"We absolutely understand there is no great time to raise people's bills," said Roberts. "Nobody wants to pay more for anything, but this is the method that we have to recover investments between rate cases.

For Rosemond and his neighbors, it's more money down the drain.

"We pay for clean water and that's what we expect," said Rosemond.

Aqua's president says he's asking for that rate hike to get back millions it used on water system upgrades. There will be several public hearings before that happens.

Meanwhile, crews have spent Wednesday chlorinating the wells in the neighborhood. Another round of tests are expected on Friday.

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