Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pricey but still yucky water, say Aqua Utilities customers in Pasco

ZEPHYRHILLS — White socks turn brown or orange in the wash. Water filters require replacement every two weeks, and the tap water smells of sulphur. Customers of Aqua Utilities say they have lived with these foul water problems for years, but their frustration spiked last year when their water bills doubled.

Some of the customers in Zephyr Shores and American Condominium Parks spend hundreds of dollars a month on bottled water, or they have installed their own home filtration systems.

And now they're paying the highest water rates in Pasco County. The typical Zephyr Shores customer pays $65 a month for water, plus $77 for wastewater, according to the state Public Service Commission.

Aqua Utilities Florida president Jack Lihvarcik said complaints about the taste, color or odor of the water are "secondary" problems. Testing shows the water complies with drinking water standards and does not contain harmful levels of any contaminant, he said.

"The water is safe to drink," Aqua Utilities spokeswoman Gretchen Toner said.

That's little comfort to residents like Peggy Welch, who replaces her water filters roughly every two weeks. New filters cost almost $30 each.

"You can tell differences in the feel of the water, the smell of the water, and (how) it discolors your bathtub," said Welch, who has lived in her home for five years.

"We'd like (Aqua Utilities Florida) to drink it," said Dave Bussey, of American Condominium Parks.

He and other residents have joined Flow Florida, a water consumer advocacy group that is urging elected officials to examine the situation.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has taken up the cause, working to lobby the PSC to "realize the way (the prices) hit consumers was very unfair" and to revisit the rate structure.

Fasano, who spent more than a decade battling another water provider, Aloha Utilities, over water quality complaints, is working on a utilities Lemon Law. The measure would require utilities to have a "reasonable and responsible product" and leave them open to daily fines if they do not respond to the PSC.

Fasano and Flow Florida are also fighting a bill that would require the PSC to approve requested rate increases. Fasano said the utilities lobbying for that law "should be ashamed of themselves."

Lihvarcik said the company asked for the rate increase for its systems across the state last year to recover the cost of already purchased improvements. He pointed to a new radio frequency meter system that "eliminates all issues with meter reading" disparities and quality.

The PSC grouped Aqua Utilities' systems into three groups, based on the costs associated with running each system.

The lowest-cost systems, including Jasmine Lakes in Port Richey, fell under one set of rates. Others fell into an intermediate category.

And the highest-cost systems — including Zephyr Shores in east Pasco and Palm Terrace in Port Richey — were grouped together with the highest rates. Zephyr Shores customers who paid $32 a month for their water two years ago now pay an average of $65 a month, the PSC said.

The new rates went into effect April 1, 2009.

Lihvarcik said consolidating the rates helps spread the maintenance costs across a larger group of customers. He said that should decrease the financial burden on residents of smaller water systems when problems arise.

Lihvarcik said Aqua Utilities has applied for a state permit to put a sequestering agent in the water to neutralize some of the metallic ions. That should reduce the smell and discoloration in the water, he said.

He said the equipment has already been installed and he expects to get the clearance to use it soon.

Pricey but still yucky water, say Aqua Utilities customers in Pasco 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 8:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.