Water customers will face rate hike

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Recent dry weather in Lawrence County has forced Hecla Water to make some changes.

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Recent dry weather in Lawrence County has forced Hecla Water to make some changes.

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First, the association will increase rates, which is scheduled to start in July.

The minimum water bill will increase from $12 to $14 and the cost of the per-thousand gallons after the minimum 50 cents will increase from $5.20 to $5.70, which is still well below the average water cost in the southeastern Ohio area, said Regina Fields, Hecla Water public relations/marketing director.

"We’re still low on the scale," Ms. Fields said. "I think Jackson County, for the minimum, is $17.25. Pike County is $16 and Scioto is $15.50. We’re looking OK. I think it’s still a reasonable rate."

This will be the only rate increase Hecla Water customers will see this year, Ms. Fields added. And company officials are working on ways to improve the water supply to avoid future increases, as well.

The Hecla Board of Directors is in the process of acquiring an additional water source to supplement the current well field.

"We’ve purchased a few lots and we’re looking for a few more lots," Ms. Fields said. "We have to have enough property before drilling wells."

The new water source will be located in the five-mile aquifer area surrounding the treatment plant. The new wells could be ready for use by the end of the year, Ms. Fields added.

In addition to a new water source, the design of the treatment process is being changed to reduce the filter backwash time, which will result in less water loss and a softer water product. The new process will substitute a liquid sodium hydroxide to remove the calcium or hardness in the water. The current process uses a lime softening technique.

Hecla Water experienced a water shortage in January and February. The low precipitation during the winter left the level of water low in the wells at the treatment plant.

But the levels are back up now and, unless dry weather returns, no problems are expected, Ms. Fields said.

"Right now we’re in good condition," she said. "The recent rainfall brought the water level back up and the demand for water is normal. We lifted our conservation request the third week of February."

The conservation request could return if the area experiences another dry spring and summer, however, said Ray Howard, Hecla Water CEO.

"The demand for water just keeps getting greater," Howard said. "Hecla is the largest water system in Lawrence County serving 25,000 people. We send out about two million gallons a day as fast as we can pump it.

"This is the first time we had to ask our customers to conserve water and the response was very positive. Most of us don’t think about how much water we use. If we have a dry spring or summer, we will have to use an additional water source and the conservation request will return."

Hecla Water also had to issue a notice to repair leaks recently. During the two weeks when the Ironton Water plant provided nearly four million gallons of water to Hecla Water, a policy was enacted to notify customers to repair leaks in 10 days. Failure to repair the leak could have resulted in loss of service until the repairs were made.

"It’s not fair to ask people to conserve water while others are letting it leak down the drain," Howard said. "So far, everyone has cooperated well with the voluntary conservation request and the notice to repair leaks."