What Took Place, What We Learned, and What We Can Expect
Resident after resident stood before the podium and told their stories. Some were in tears due to the troubles and problems they have encountered and continued to encounter. As residents told their stories a pattern became clear and the similarities of residents throughout San Tan Valley were made even more clear.
This hearing was far more than a hearing about a rate increase of 23%. This hearing was about San Tan Valley having their voice heard to address a problem that has been in our area for over a decade. A problem that anyone with the power to improve the situation has ignored.
Here is a breakdown of the stories time after time over the course of the six events during the two days of hearings.
This was the most common story told during these hearings. Resident after resident, with bills in hand in most cases, spoke about receiving bills for insanely high amounts of water usage. From single individual house holds receiving bills for thousands of gallons consumed to small families receiving bills for 20,000, 30,000, 70,000, and over 100,000 gallons in some cases.
Each and every times the residents told about their experiences and the solutions given to them from the customer service was “you have a leak” or “someone is stealing your water.” This response wasn’t mentioned just once or twice, but dozens of times with the crowd in attendance agreeing and acknowledging that it matched their experiences as well.
When residents would ask why their usage dropped the following month the experience repeated was that they were told “well, you must have fixed your leak.”
Another problem that was repeatedly experienced was the billing of even number of gallons used, which always resulted in gallons being billed by the thousand and never accurately presented which leads to many residents feeling that the usage is wildly estimated.
You have to understand how consistent this experience was from each resident. This experience was not isolated and the problems can be found throughout our area.
Resident after resident spoke about the smell from the water. The corrosiveness of the water and how it seemingly eats and destroys their appliances and faucets.
The high nitrate levels, the E Coli, the discolored water, and the health concerns for themselves, their children, and their pets. Several residents spoke about illnesses that doctors cannot explain which has caused weight loss, migraines, seizures, rashes, and other health problems.
Residents also spoke about their pets that were healthy before coming to this area that quickly grew ill upon living in our community.
Another huge frustration point was that residents are paying incredibly high costs for water that they cannot drink and are fearful of using. Resident, after resident, after resident spoke about being forced to buy bottled water to drink on top of having to pay high amounts for water that they do not even feel safe using.
Sewage, Smell, and
From the general unpleasant smells, to overflowing sewage, to the concerns and fears of the ongoing high levels of hydrogen sulfide emissions, residents, again, told the same story time after time about their experiences.
Additionally, the complaint that the fines for such violations could have been minimal even though the fines could have had far more weight. The county could have fined Johnson Utilities $10,000 per violation, up to $1,008,000, but it would have had to take the case to court. The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to settle for $20,000 and an order of abatement that included measures the utility would have to take to get into compliance. Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, was the only supervisor who voted to pursue increased penalties for the utility.
Pricing and Fees
Of course, along the high claims of water usage comes incredibly high bills, plus all of the extra fees. This results in residents having a water bill of over $100 and in many cases it is reported that residents are paying over $200 with some bills coming in at $400, $500, and higher.
Residents told of their experiences of having the water shut off on their end and still receiving bills for thousands of gallons of water usage with no solutions provided by the company and no relief for incorrect billing.
Additionally, it was repeatedly told during the hearings of paying bills, but since the company did not process the payment, shutoffs and late fees took place.
The Results and The Frustration
The ACC announced that they will have a special meeting to decide the direction and penalties that they could bring to the utility company that is in addition to the ongoing rate case. This meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 22, starting at about 2:00 PM.
The frustration with these hearings, apart from having to deal with all of the additional problems that this community has dealt with for over a decade, is that the ACC representatives claimed, on several occasions throughout the six hearings, that this is the first time they have heard of these problems. This alone is shocking and concerning as this community has brought thousands of complaints to the ACC over the course of the last decade of dealing with this ongoing problem.
This is either willful ignorance on their part or intentionally blocking results for our community for reasons we can only assume is corruption… again.
Stay tuned, stay engaged, and don’t give up. We wont..