By VICKI BROWN
Some Edisto Beach residents say they are not happy about the increase in their semi-annual water bill, despite the town’s water system now being improved and giving residents better-tasting and cleaner water.
The current water bills reflect decisions made many months ago, when a new water system was implemented.
According to town officials, the town’s residents originally voted down a referendum on their new Reverse Osmosis system, which now provides fresh water to residents and visitors.
Previously, homeowners and vacationers had to buy bottled drinking water or travel to the town’s fire department to fill containers for fresh water needed to drink or cook with.
Another issue with the town’s former water system is that it was designed years ago to meet the town’s then water needs, which change monthly and are now increasing because of growth. A typical February day sees the town’s customers using about 300,000 gallons daily. During the Fourth of July holiday, however, the town can see consumption climb to 1.5 million gallons a day, according to town officials.
The old system wasn’t set up for that growth spurt.
Edisto Beach Town Council members said the new Reverse Osmosis system would provide tasty tap water and improve the community’s supply of water. Despite the referendum failing, council voted to install the system. The town consequently implemented two 15-percent rate hikes to pay for the $7.255-million revenue bond issued to pay for the plant’s construction. The bond will be in place for 30 years.
“We were almost pressured into implementing this new water plant,” said Edisto Beach Town Mayor Jane Darby. “We just did not have enough water to meet the needs of the people or the fire department. We hated going into debt, but we saw no other way. But now, everyone is thrilled with the new water.”
While residents might be thrilled with the quality of water they are receiving, the water bills are causing some controversy.
For some, the bill went up over $30, but for others, it more than doubled.
Edisto homeowner Kristie Lundy contacted town officials complaining about the semi-annual water bill she received. Her bill had doubled. She requested a utilities person to come check, and subsequently found a leak. After submitting proof that there was a leak that had been fixed she was told that the bill would not be adjusted.
According to new town rules, adjustments will only be made with proof, and the town may adjust only the sewer portion of the bill: the sewer portion will be reduced to a three-month average. The water portion will not be adjusted, but payment plans may be used, according to a new town ordinance.
Water that passes through the meter is the responsibility of the customer. The town may assist if necessary, but it is at the town’s discretion.
Some residents say they are concerned now, and for those who rent out their homes during the summer and holidays, the new increase in the water bills will certainly show up in the rental agreements and be passed on to the vacationers.