EMERALD ISLAND – Some residents of Emerald Isle have complained about water bills that have doubled or tripled recently; meanwhile, the executive director of Bogue Banks Water Corp. said usage and availability necessitated pricing changes.
In a statement responding to customer complaints, BBWC’s Seola Hill cited revenue needs that triggered a rate hike; increased costs of supplying chemicals; new, more accurate counters; and problems in obtaining quality water as the intrusion of salt water into the aquifer water source increases and site irrigation expands.
One of the customers who complained was Danny Shell, who lives in Windjammer East, off Coast Guard Road.
In an email from September 10 to News-Times, he said his bill in August 2019 was $ 77, but in August 2020 it rose to $ 252 and he only used 3,000 more gallons in the same period.
Mr Shell said he visited BBWC in early September after receiving his August bill and listened to an explanation. When he returned home unsatisfied, he posted his experience on social media and got over 100 responses from people whose bills had tripled.
“In all honesty,” Mr Shell said in the email, “it seems… I have abused the irrigation, which I am not proud of. Either way, I have turned the irrigation off and will water as needed for shorter periods of time and will see what happens next month.
Yet, he said, “it is clear that the company cannot meet the seasonal demand for water in the summer and we have been poorly ‘urged’ to take this into account through our recent bills.”
In his response, Hill said the private nonprofit has installed new meters for about 65% of its customers, and they are more accurate than the ones they replaced, which have degraded over time. time.
Additionally, he said, the company implemented new tariffs for the first time in 10 years before new coronavirus restrictions hit in March. The company, he added, “waived all late fees and suspended all disconnections during this period and offered hardship payment plans if necessary.”
The new pricing system is “phased” for the first time, Mr. Hill said, which means that instead of paying a flat rate for all the water they use, customers are now paying more as they go. consumption is increasing. This is something other companies implemented a long time ago, he said.
In addition, BBWC charges for irrigation water at an even higher rate, $ 10 per 1,000 gallons.
“The decision to move to a multi-level structure was not taken lightly,” Hill said in the statement.
The utility, he said, started the system for a number of reasons, including the ever-increasing demand for a finite resource.
“With summer demand reaching almost 400% of off-season demand, we have sent out newsletters in the spring of the past two years asking customers to help us by reducing their use, especially irrigation, during the summer season. Said Mr. Hill. “Demand has not decreased over the past two years. Statistically speaking, homes that irrigate use 70-80% of their water on the lawn.
“While we understand the desire for a lush green lawn, especially in a community that has far more rentals than full-time residents, it is ultimately a luxury item that hurts more. the aquifer (of Hayne Castle) than on the surface, “he continued.
He said that is not a healthy long term trend.
“We cannot continue to blindly abuse the underground aquifer with such high demand without consequences for future generations,” he said, citing the saltwater intrusion.
He suggested homeowners use shallow wells, low-flow irrigation heads, working rain sensors, and irrigate no more than three days a week.
“My main goal is to maintain a water supply system that is not only functionally healthy, but also prepared for the future with a healthy aquifer in order to provide safe water for future generations,” he said. he concludes.
Mr Shell said many homeowners did not have room for the shallow wells Mr Hill suggested.
In his response to the complaints, Mr Hill said the company, which also serves Indian Beach and Salter Path, had been trying since February to lease town property in McLean-Spell Park for a new well. It would provide water for a reverse osmosis plant planned to deal with the intrusion problem. Reverse osmosis removes salt.
Residents of Sound Drive near the proposed rental site have complained about the company’s well site plan, and the city has yet to approve the lease, largely due to state restrictions on the size of the crowd at meetings during the pandemic. Officials did not want to hold a likely crowded public hearing.
General manager Matt Zapp said on Friday the city wanted to continue discussions with the utility and would process the lease as soon as possible.
In the meantime, Mr Hill said BBWC is testing a water meter add-on that would allow homeowners to see water usage on a daily basis through an app.
“It could be a powerful tool for those who don’t live here full time, have rental homes, or just want to keep tabs on your daily use,” he said.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; send an email to Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow us on Twitter @brichccnt.