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File | The Journal Gazette

Long seeks probe into Aqua Indiana pressure problems


INDIANAPOLIS – GOP Senate President Pro Tem David Long sent a letter to state utility regulators Monday asking for an investigation into Aqua Indiana's recent water-pressure problems.

The letter said if the study finds the utility must make improvements, the cost should not be borne by customers, who have already experienced two major rate hikes.

"The customers of Aqua Indiana have been paying exorbitant rates for their water and sewer services," Long said. "They should not have to shell out once again in order to fix problems that should have been handled long ago." In a letter sent to Aqua Indiana, the IURC has asked the company to voluntarily remain connected to the city of Fort Wayne and to attend a public hearing in Indianapolis to discuss the problems. If the utility will not do it voluntarily, the IURC could start a formal investigation and issue an emergency order.

Aqua Indiana began buying water from Fort Wayne City Utilities on June 21 to provide adequate water pressure for the private utility's customers.

While only 1,400 Aqua Indiana customers switched to city water, the move was intended to improve service for all customers by freeing capacity in its pipes.

Bill Etzler, regional vice president for Aqua Indiana, said at the time he didn't believe the troubles with the private system were indicative of any serious problems.

Instead, he blamed extreme circumstances for causing Aqua Indiana to seek city assistance, and said the private utility has ample water supplies in its wells, but the high demand has taxed its distribution system.

Long – a longtime customer of the utility – fears the company might have to build another water tower.

His letter to James Atterholt, chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, asked that the regulators determine the cause of recent water pressure problems, make sure the water supply is adequate and order Aqua Indiana to remain connected to Fort Wayne City Utilities until the IURC is satisfied customers aren't under the threat of inadequate water pressure.

Long conceded the drought conditions, but said "most, if not all of the other water utilities in Indiana have faced similar problems, and to my knowledge, none have been on the verge of having their water system fail."