Customers fight Illinois American, Aqua Illinois rate hike request, say water bills already too high

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Customers fight Illinois American, Aqua Illinois water rate hike requests
Customers and suburban leaders are fighting private water utilities Illinois American Water and Aqua Illinois, who are requesitng rate hikes after watchdog groups say they've seen

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- Customers and local lawmakers are fighting two private water utility companies' request for a rate hike in Illinois, saying their bills are already too high and service has not been up to par.

Nearly 1.4 million Illinois families could see their bills go up by about $30 a month, and they said they're already taking extreme measures to be conservative with their water usage thanks to the cost.

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Illinois American and Aqua Illinois, both private water utility companies, have put in rate hike requests after seeing 7% to 15& increases in profits, according to the Citizens Utility Board.

They have made the request nearly a year after local leaders said hundreds of Aqua customers went five days without water over the Fourth of July in 2023.

"A rate hike, especially one this substantial, on the heels of that failure is absolutely inexcusable," said 51st District Rep. Nabeela Syed.

"Water costs for private utilities were 20% to 70%, higher than public utilities," said Bryan McDaniel, Citizens Utility Board director of governmental affairs.

Rene Gonzalez, an Illinois American customer, said he pours bottles of water in his toilet to conserve water usage. He no longer waters his grass or drinks from the sink, because he said his water bill from Illinois American has doubled.

"We are very conservative and our bill is like $150, $160 every month. Doesn't matter what time of the year it is," he said.

ABC7 reached out to both companies for comment. Each pointed to replacing or enhancing aging infrastructure and water quality as reasons for the rate hikes.

"They're actually looking to use it so they can benefit their own shareholders by giving them more of a profit," Gonzalez said.

Gonzales believes the decisions are not about people but profits, and is urging his community to take a stand.

"We need to wise up and do something and take back our resources here," he said.

Both companies will have to have their rate hike requests approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, which would happen closer to December.

Full statement from Illinois American Water

This information is based on the opinion and testimony of the Illinois Citizens Utility Board (CUB), a utility customer watchdog group. Intervention by customers, communities and third parties like CUB, and the expression of their opinion, is a standard and expected part of the rate-making process. As announced earlier this year, Illinois American Water filed a rate request on January 25, 2024, with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to support significant investments in aging water and wastewater systems to be made through 2025, to continue providing clean, safe, reliable and affordable service. The request reinforces the company's ongoing commitment to investing in its water and wastewater systems to replace aging infrastructure, provide reliable service, enhance water quality and comply with local and federal environmental regulations. The facts of this rate request are being reviewed by the ICC over an 11-month rate review process. Any general rate changes proposed through this filing would not become effective until a final rate order is approved by the ICC. We anticipate a final order from the Illinois Commerce Commission in December.

Full statement from Aqua Illinois

Aqua is committed to delivering reliable water to our customers across the state. Aqua purchased systems that were nearing the end of their usable life all across Illinois during the past six and a half years and has spent millions of dollars to improve the communities we serve through infrastructure enhancements. Our customers have not seen an increase in rates during that time, but Aqua cannot sustain these continued investments in Illinois water infrastructure alone.

Modernization of our shared water infrastructure to ensure continued quality and reliable water delivery to communities requires comprehensive funding and partnership at the local, state and federal levels.

These increased rates are part of the solution to reduce the potential for outages to ensure our customers receive the reliable drinking and wastewater services they deserve.

Aqua appreciates the partnership as we work together to make improvements in our local communities.