PWC projects more possible price hikes for customers if EPA's PFAS standards are enforced

Monique John Image
Friday, March 24, 2023
PWC projects more possible price hikes for customers
The utility might have to pay more from meeting the EPA's recently proposed standards for PFAS in water supplies and could pass some costs on to consumers.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- PWC is pointing to another development that could spell rate hikes for customers.

This time it's from the price the utility might have to pay from meeting the EPA's recently proposed standards for PFAS in water supplies.

PWC told ABC11 it is estimating it could spend $73 million to install technology to treat PFAS in its water supply. It's a cost that customers would eventually see on their water bills if the EPA implements the protective water standards it proposed last week. Customers say they're not happy but some say they'll grin and bear it.

"If it's a step to the water quality being better, and more sustainable for us as consumers, then yeah, I kind of understand. I'm on board," said Dale Hackenberry.

Another PWC customer, Trey Scott, added: "You gotta do what you gotta do to make sure the water is safe. I have kids, so..."

Others were also resigned.

"I guess we're going to have to pay whatever they tell us to pay," said Elizabeth Murphy of Fayetteville.

Earlier this month, PWC voted in a series of rate hikes for water, sewage and electricity. The utility cited inflation but also accounted for the initial designs and engineering of the water treatment tech that would be required by the EPA. However, environmentalists question if officials did their due diligence to shield customers from the cost.

"(W)as again the budget exhausted to look at all the funding that is coming from the federal government?" said La'meshia Whittington, the executive director of The Green Majority.

READ MORE: NatGeo explores what Americans should know about contaminants in drinking water

"(W)e have to be sure that we are not creating a scapegoat environment...there is technology that has to be redone, overhauled. That's fine. But again, was there money that was applied for at the American Rescue Plan Act. Was it funding received? Absolutely. There were millions of dollars that Cumberland County has already received. And so how can we make sure that we are reducing, or at least making it the last stop on the list to increase the burden on everyday people who are trying to make ends meet?" Whittington said.

"There's actually specific Federal funding set aside in recent bills that were passed last Congress, signed by President Biden that do provide funding for chemicals just like this," said Geoff Gisler, the program director of the Southern Environmental Law Center. "So it's my hope that PWC will look to those or look to sources of funding that will not put the burden on people with lower wealth."

PWC said the cost to install the water treatment technology will likely increase in the future, but the exact amount is unknown.