Some Illinois American Water customers could spend an additional $300 a year or more on their bills if its proposed rate increase is approved.
The utility, which serves about 1.2 million people statewide, filed a request Thursday with the Illinois Commerce Commission to increase rates starting in January 2017.
Customers in the Chicago metro area who get lake water and sewer service from Illinois American Water would see a water price increase of $3.62 per month. The company has also proposed an increase in wastewater collection rates of $8.06 per month, which would go up $22.85 per month if their wastewater is also treated by the utility.
Customers in the Chicago metro area who get their well water and sewer service from Illinois American Water would see their water rates increase by $5.64 per month. The company has requested a wastewater collection increase of $8.06 per month. If their wastewater is also treated by the utility, then the increase would be $22.85 more per month.
Officials from Illinois American Water said the increase is necessary to complete millions of dollars in water and sewer infrastructure upgrades.
According to the utility, Illinois American Water will have invested about $342 million statewide in infrastructure from October 2013 through December 2017.
The investments include $76 million locally replacing and installing fire hydrants, valves, meters and manholes, as well as improving more than 23 miles of water mains and more than 24 miles of sewer mains. Upgrades to treatment plants and wastewater pump stations are also among the improvements, according to the company.
Michael Smyth, vice president of operations for Illinois American Water, said that while raising rates is unpopular, it is critical to ensure safe drinking water and reliable wastewater services.
Homer Glen Mayor George Yukich, whose village is served by Illinois American Water, said the rate request is “ridiculous.”
“We would like to sit down with the ICC and give them our side of the story,” Yukich said. “Water should never be in the hands of a company that is for-profit. It’s a rotten shame this is happening.”
Yukich said it’s not uncommon for Homer Glen homeowners to spend $200 or more monthly for water. To save money, residents don’t always flush their toilets after use or turn some toilets in their homes off, Yukich said. Residents have stopped watering lawns, and those who do water in the summer or add water to their pools face bills in excess of $700 monthly, he said.
Homer Glen is one of five communities in the Northern Will County Water Agency that is hoping to take over the water transmission line though an eminent domain lawsuit in hopes of providing cheaper water for its residents. That litigation is ongoing.
Jim Chilsen, a spokesman for the Citizens Utility Board, said the rate hike proposal is “tough news for Illinois American consumers.”
“It always raises questions when a profitable company asks for a rate hike,” he said. “At first glance, this seems punishable. Illinois American Water will have to justify every penny.”
Chilsen said the board plans to read over the proposal and consult with other consumer advocate organizations during the 11-month review process.
Illinois American Water’s last base rate increase was approved by the ICC in September 2012.