Public Input Needed for Water Rates; Beware of False Products

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A second round of upcoming public meetings offers Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities customers their first chance to learn about and respond to alternative water and sewer rate and fee structures that could be proposed to Charlotte City Council in early 2011.
Water officials continue taking their first comprehensive look at water & sanitary sewer rates and fees since 1977. The utility’s goal is to recommend an updated rate structure that is considered fair and equitable among different types of water/sewer customers, while generating revenues required to operate the community-owned water and sewer system.

“To be clear, this is a review of how customers are charged for water and sewer services they receive – not how much customers are charged,” explained Utilities Director Barry Gullet. “It’s important to hear from customers. Any change in the methods used to charge for service could affect residential, commercial, irrigation and other kinds of water customers in different ways.”

Last month’s first set of countywide meetings sought public input related to the existing water and sewer rate structure. This second series introduces potential rate & fee alternatives – and impacts – for public feedback. Details will also be posted online within the next two weeks.

Come to a public meeting.

Fourteen community volunteers are serving on a Water/Sewer Rate Study Stakeholders Advisory Group that will act as a sounding board during this process. Red Oak Consulting, a division of Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., is the rate expert working with Utilities staff. A rate structure recommendation will be shared with the Utilities Advisory Group, the City Council Restructuring Government Committee and presented to City Council for consideration in February 2011.

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Beware of Products Claiming to Reduce Water Bill,
Provide Free Water Quality Testing

Beware of products that claim to reduce water bills:

* Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities encourages customer to research and verify before purchasing products that claim to reduce water bills or remove ‘impurities.’

* Customers can find general tips and alerts at the Better Business Bureau web site.

Beware of false or misleading information about Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s water quality:

* No City or County staff goes door-to-door to sell anything. If a Utilities employee comes to your door for water testing purposes, he/she should be wearing identification and driving a white, marked City vehicle.

* Individual tastes will vary and some customers choose to install filters for that reason. However, tap water delivered to customers meets and often exceeds all health and safety standards and does not require additional filtration at home. Utilities conducts more than 150,000 water quality tests annually to monitor the safety of our community’s drinking water. It’s conceivable – but not often – that private plumbing issues could impact a customer’s tap water quality.

* Tap water is not acidic. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A reading of 7 is neutral, with acids falling below 7 and bases above 7. Utilities adjusts the pH of tap water to slightly above 7 to reduce corrosion in water pipes.

* Chlorine is used in the treatment process to prevent waterborne illness, while fluoride provides a defense against tooth decay. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates drinking water and has set a safety limit of 4 parts per million (proportional to $0.04 in $10,000). In Charlotte, chlorine and fluoride levels in drinking water are well below that safety limit at about 1 ppm.

* Water hardness is defined by the amount of trace minerals present, such as calcium and magnesium. Water is considered ‘hard’ if it has more than 125 parts per million of trace minerals. Charlotte’s tap water has an average of 34 ppm or 1.8 grains per gallon of trace minerals, so it is considered ‘soft’ water.

Customers can get the facts from the EPA-required annual water quality report that every city must produce and mail to customers. Customers may also get information from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791, or visitwww.epa.gov.

The safety of our customers’ drinking water is the top priority for your clean water professionals at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities. Customers can dial 311 or 704-336-7600 if they have a water quality concern.

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