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Rural water users to see fee hike in 2017

by Minden Press-Herald

Drinking water fees for community water systems will rise from $3.20 annually to $12 to help cover the cost of Louisiana’s Office of Public Health’s drinking water inspection program.

For rural water systems, such as the Central Water System that means its roughly 200 customers will see an additional $12 per year added to their water bill.

Sam Mims, vice president of the Central Water System, said when the fee was $3.20, the system would just pay it and did not charge the customer. As the new law goes into effect, he said customers will see $1 each month added to their bill.

The good news, he said, is this means the state will resume sampling the water instead of trusting the systems to do it themselves.

“It’s cheaper for us for the state to collect the $12 per customer so the state can do what they need to do,” he said. “It’s more cost effective for our water system to collect that fee than it is for us to keep doing it ourselves.”

Paige Swilley, a Pleasant Valley Water System customer, said she doesn’t mind the added expense.
“I don’t think $12 a year is a big deal,” she said. “Our bill is usually only around $15 a month, so I don’t feel $12 more a year will be much of a difference. It’s going towards something really necessary, since I use this water for my kids.”

The state scaled back its safe water testing and asked the community water systems to do the testing themselves and turn them in to the state. The idea, Mims said, is to allow the state to resume sampling, but even if a water system chooses to continue collecting the samples themselves, they still have to collect and pay the fee to the state.

Amanda Laughlin, PE, chief engineer with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, said the additional services are provided at no additional cost to community water systems.

“The Safe Drinking Water Program will reinstate the bacteriological sample collection program for all public water systems statewide,” she said. “Additionally, the Safe Drinking Water Program will begin to collect and analyze the total TTHMs and HAA5 samples for water systems statewide.”

The fee is expected to raise an estimated $13.5 million for the state public health office annually, according to a financial analysis done for lawmakers. Another $500,000 will be paid to the Louisiana Rural Water Association each year, and a portion of the money will also go to local government agencies that own the water systems.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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