United Water Toms River, a subsidiary of French-based Suez Environment, takes it's request for a $5.2 million dollar base rate increase to the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU). Jim Mastrokalos, the utility's Director of Operations, said the request reflects over $22 million in capital investments since its last rate hike request in 2013.

According to the United Water Toms River's press release, the capital investments include enhancements to its pumping stations, water supply well upgrades and rehabilitation, water treatment system improvements, back-up pumping stations and the replacement of nearly 2 miles of underground water mains.

Mastrokalos also adds that its conservation efforts have reduced water usage by half and in doing so has reduced the company's overall revenue while the cost of its operations have increased.

The proposed rate hike United Water Toms River is requesting would equate to an additional $7.57 per month charge to a typical residential customer. Mastrokalos said that as part of their rate relief request, each area of its expense is critically evaluated to insure its validity.

"We know more about both the water quality and what it takes to treat that water. We have to maintain higher regulatory standards as well as dealing with an aging infrastructure," said Mastrokalos.

Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari announced Wednesday, March 4, that the Freeholders "cannot support this increase." He cited United Water's 2013 hike and the impact on folks with fixed incomes. Vicari also said the increase would adversely affect local businesses that use significantly more water.

If approved, the requested rate increase would take effect sometime in late 2015 after investigation and review by the BPU and opportunity for public comment, according to the company's press release.

United water Toms River provides water service to about 120,000 people in Toms River, South Toms River and a portion of Berkeley Township. The utility's annual Water Quality Report can be accessed electronically for residential and business customers. The report for year-ending 2014 is available at unitedwater.com/UWTR/CCR2014

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