Franklin County addresses water complaints
Residents in Prairie Township are complaining their water bills from Franklin County are too high.
Stephen Renner, director of sanitary engineering for Franklin County, said the rates could be from increased water usage during the summer’s drought.
“What happened here in the summer is that we’ve had one of the worst droughts in recent history,” Renner said. “So people were watering their yards and watering their gardens more than usual.”
The county saw a 39 percent increase in water usage compared to its first quarter, Renner said.
Some residents pointed to the county’s water loss as part of the problem.
The county experienced a 57 percent loss in water from 2005-11, according to a rate study by the sanitary engineer’s office. The county purchases its water from the city of Columbus.
The industry standard for water loss is about 15 percent, according to county documents.
After assessing the amount of water it was losing, the county performed a leak detection survey in December.
“We found four major leaks and we were able to repair them,” Renner said. “All four were underground. They were leaking from our pipes and going in an underground storm drain. They were not bubbling up to the surface like most do.”
Renner said the rate increase took effect at the beginning of the year and would have no bearing on increased rates for the summer.
The repairs resulted in an approximate 30 percent rate increase, or about $14 per customer. Renner said residents should have seen this take effect by April.
Renner said he is optimistic about less water loss for the county. He hopes rate increases will not be neccesary in November.
According to Renner, two years of neglect on the pipes forced the county’s hand and they must address the system.
“This is my least favorite part about my job, the rates,” Renner said. “But I have to balance my budget.”
Prairie Township’s other water provider, Aqua Ohio, serves about 1,500 residents in the Lake Darby subdivision.
Aqua Ohio’s water loss was around 9.4 percent last year.
Aqua Ohio had an increase of about $4 per household last year.
Jeff LaRue, Aqua Ohio’s external affairs manager, said his company raised usage rates by an average of $5.61 per month and cut service charges to $8.55 per month.
LaRue said Aqua Ohio is committed to holding the line on costs for its customers. He said 20 percent of every water bill goes back into the community through property taxes paid by Aqua Ohio for its land.
“That 20 percent is the highest cost to us, out of everything that we pay,” he said.
Westside editor Sean V. Lehosit contributed to this story.