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White Rock water bills to surge $5.77 a month
If they haven’t already, White Rock residents will soon start to see the financial impact of plans to upgrade the city’s water system.
Epcor spokesman Tim LeRiche said Friday that bills bearing the interim water rates – which are climbing by an estimated 21 per cent over 2013 – should be arriving in customers’ mailboxes at anytime.
To the average homeowner, it’s a boost of $5.77 per month, to $25.29.
LeRiche acknowledged the increase is dramatically higher than that of previous years – for example, rates rose by 14 cents per month in 2011 and $0.72 per month in 2013.
But if Epcor’s rate application to the B.C. comptroller of water rights is approved, the bills will increase by about the same rate every year through 2017. That means the average homeowner will be paying more than double what they were last year by the end of the term.
“We acknowledge that there’s an impact to consumers and in fact, we spoke about that in our communications with the community, including the open house (on the Total Water Quality Management Program),” LeRiche said.
“That Total Water Quality Management Program is by far the largest part of what is in this rate application.”
The $11-12 million project received the green light from the deputy comptroller last June. It includes work that was mandated by Fraser Health following an August 2010 boil-water advisory that was triggered by coliform bacteria contamination.
Epcor officials told council a year ago, during a presentation on the TWQM program, that costs of the upgrades will “absolutely” be recovered. A notice on Epcor’s website states the rates “reflect the full cost” of the project by the end of 2017.
LeRiche said steps were taken to soften the hit.
“We tried to smooth it out over the four years, so that there wasn’t one big wallop,” he said.
He noted that even at the end of the rate period, White Rock’s base rates “will still be less than flat rates in Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond.”
Other factors cited in the proposed rate increase were inflation and declining consumption.
Minutes of a Nov. 26 meeting between the City of White Rock and Epcor officials suggest the latter point struck a chord.
“It is ironic that conservation has been successful and people are being penalized with higher rates because of it,” states the unnamed commenter.
LeRiche explained it is a result of less water being used by fewer consumers, meaning costs must be shared by fewer people.
“The fact is that the infrastructure that brings that water to them still has to be paid for,” he said.
Epcor applied last month to raise the rates.
Anyone wishing to comment on the application has until Feb. 28 to forward those comments – with a copy to Epcor – to Rick Couroux, the secretary to the deputy comptroller of water rights. He can be reached by email at Rick.Couroux@gov.bc.ca
For more information, visit www.epcor.com