Soaring wastewater bills anger West Valley residents

PHOENIX - After months of complaints, petitions, and letters, relief may be in sight for some West Valley Epcor wastewater customers.

Dozens of people packed an Arizona Corporation Commission meeting Tuesday morning.

All wanted to voice concern about rising water bills, costing some hundreds of dollars.

While water rates are a concern, Tuesday's hearing was to specifically discuss sewer rates that customers in the Agua Fria wastewater district say are out of control.

RELATED: Sewer rate hikes shock West Valley communities

Epcor says the rate increases are a result of a decision made by the Arizona Corporation Commission back in 2012.

At the time Anthem and Agua Fria were merged in the same district, sharing the costs.

But the commission voted to split them, as part of a settlement with Anthem who also argued they were paying for services that they did not use. It's a similar argument that some communities within the current Agua Fria wastewater district believe apply to them too.

In the end, the commission voted 4-0 to have Epcor study the effects of three scenarios (Commission Bob Burns was excused from the proceeding).

The three scenarios include:

  • Further de-consolidate Agua Fria wastewater district
  • Reconsolidate Agua Fria and Anthem wastewater districts
  • Consolidate all of Epcor's wastewater districts though out the state

Several residents at the meeting spoke in favor of consolidation of the districts. This would be mean the nearly 50,000 Epcor wastewater customers throughout the state would share the costs of maintaining each other's systems--for better or worse.

Commissioner Brenda Burns warned, it may not be a cure all.

"I am concerned that there's a preconceived notion that everything should be consolidated," said Burns.

She went on to cite other cases in which some consolidated districts have disputed paying for out of the ordinary expenditures that only benefit a few customers.

Consolidation is a move that would also need input from the other wastewater districts including Sun City, Sun City West, Anthem and Mohave in northern Arizona.

Epcor has until August 8 to turn over plans to the Commission.

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