Pittsburgh water rates would rise under proposal approved by PWSA board
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority residential customers could see their monthly bills jump an average of $10.61 if the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission OKs a 16.7 percent increase approved Friday by the PWSA board of directors.
The new rate would replace rate increases of 10 percent in 2019 and 11 percent in 2020 that the board approved last year, spokesman Will Pickering said.
“We expect a final decision by PUC by March of 2019,” Pickering said. “Up until then we’re going to continue with the rates that were previously approved. In essence if (the 16.7 percent is) accepted it would actually be less than what those two years combined would have amounted to.”
Water and sewer rates increased 28 percent in January.
The monthly bill for an average residential customer using 3,000 gallons of water per month would increase from $63.62 to $74.23 under the new rates, according to PWSA.
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross opposed the increase.
“There was less of an increase for large nonprofits and hospitals than it was for our small residential customers,” she said. “I don’t think that’s right, and I don’t want it to continue in that direction.”
Rates for a health or education customer using 50,000 gallons per month would increase by 9.7 percent, or from $1,031.30 to $1,131.73 per month, Pickering said. He said the PUC requires PWSA to charge rates based on the true cost of providing water and sewer services.
“Our analysis shows that the true cost of service for this class of customers put them in to the 9.7 percent range,” he said.
Gross said it rates should be based on a customer’s ability to pay.
“While I believe we have set the right goals for the infrastructure budget and we have the right amount of rates, I just don’t like how the rates are distributed,” Gross said.
State lawmakers in 2017 passed legislation placing PWSA for a first time under PUC oversight. The state agency typically regulates utilities, but not municipal authorities.
Legislators were responding to chronic problems at PWSA, including high lead levels in water, overwhelming debt and century-old water and sewer infrastructure. Mayor Bill Peduto last year estimated the cost of replacing all of the leaking pipes and malfunctioning pumps could be as much as $5 billion.
PWSA was required by the PUC to submit a rate request, known as a tariff, to the state agency by July 2.
The authority expects the increase to generate an additional $27 million annually. PWSA will use the additional cash to improve operations including its water, sewer and stormwater systems.