Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd says his drive to end rate subsidies for Pennsylvania American Water customers in the city is not aimed at hurting those residents. “It is not my intention nor is it my goal… to raise the water rates for the Penn American customers,” says Dowd. “The goal for us should be to take those customers into the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority system.” He says his bill, which would end the subsidies in February of 2012, is the first step in making that happen.
Penn American charges more for water than the PWSA and for decades the city has been making payments to Penn American to equalize the rates. Dowd says over the last 15 years the PWSA has sent $65 million to Penn American and he wants to know how that money is being used. “I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about where they are putting our money, and it’s not in the city of Pittsburgh.” Dowd has called for two post agenda meetings on the subject. One of the meetings would include representative of Penn American and the other would include representatives of the PWSA. The next step would be to hold public hearings.
Pennsylvania American Water Spokeswoman Josephine Posti says, “Pennsylvania American Water is committed to a really aggressive investment program. Last year alone we invested over $63 million in infrastructure replacements for or Pittsburgh Customers.” Posti says the company is also in the process of making $100 million in investments in water treatment facilities that serve customers in the city. As far as Posti knows, the city has not sent a formal proposal to pick up the Penn American customers so she is unable to comment on the company’s willingness to make such a deal but she does say Penn American is “proud of their service to Pittsburgh residents for the last 100 years and is looking forward to the next 100 years.”
Dowd says it is unclear why back in 1957 the mayor of Pittsburgh entered into an agreement with a private company to provide water service to residents south of the Mon River. He speculates that at the time the city did not have the capacity or the pipes to provide the service. He says that is no longer the case, “We have the treatment capacity, we have the reservoir capacity, we have the pipe capacity and we have the pumping capacity, we have the information technology capacity, we have the maintenance capacity. We have all of the capacity at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to provide water in 2010 to all residents living in the city.”
Dowd says with all of the questions about water quality related to shale drilling he wants to make sure the PWSA is responsible for providing water to all city residents, not a private company. He says he wants to make sure residents get the highest quality water service at the lowest possible price.
Councilman Bruce Kraus says he will do all his homework but he plans to fight Dowd every step of the way. Most of his district is served by Penn American Water and he fears that many of those customers cannot afford a rate increase. Penn American’s Posti says they have special programs to help low income customers and she encourages anyone having problems paying their bill to contact the company.