An independent report submitted to the PSC recently highlights the Southern Water and Sewer District as having the third-highest water bill cost in the state. 

Mary Cromer of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center and Ricki Draper of the Martin County Concerned Citizens issued the report, “Drinking Water Affordability Crisis in Martin County, Kentucky,” to the PSC in a case involving the Martin County Water District. 

Water rates at that district are $54.37, the report says, ranking it as the eighth-highest water bill in the state. 

With a PSC-mandated flat rate of $58.82, the Southern Water and Sewer District ranks third among the 20 utilities that issue the highest water bills in the state, according to the report. 

On Oct. 2, the PSC granted Southern Water’s request to extend its management contract with Utilities Management Group, a previously approved by the Southern Water and Sewer District commission. In that rate case, the PSC previously set a flat rate of $58.82 because the district’s water meters are not reliable and the district was operating at a loss in Floyd County. That flat rate for Southern Water, however, is temporary, and the application for a rate increase is still pending with the PSC. 

In another PSC case, Southern Water is seeking a certificate of public need and convenience for Southern Water to replace its old meters — a move, officials say, will lower district water bills.

The report highlights Martin County’s median household income, $29,239, and notes that 35.8 percent of the county’s population live in poverty. 

Floyd County’s population is double that of Martin County’s, and its median household income is slightly higher, at $31,196, but it has a higher rate of elderly residents, (18.4 percent), the U.S. Census Bureau reports online. 

That agency reports that 23.1 percent of Floyd County residents under the age of 65 have a disability, and 32.2 percent of Floyd County residents are living in poverty. 

Prior to this year, the last time the PSC granted a rate increase to Southern Water’s was in 2015, when customers bills increased from $47.87 to $49.80. That four percent increase also came with approval from the PSC for Southern Water to replaced 14,000 ft. of line between Allen and Martin for about $1.8 million. Southern Water obtained a 40-year revenue bond for that project and the PSC ordered that the proceeds from the bond are only to be used for the project. 

In that case, the PSC also required Southern Water to file “as-built” drawing and a certified statement from the engineer to show that construction had been completed within 60 days of the substantial completion of the project. The last filing in that case came from the Kentucky Engineering Group in 2016, which it reported that the project was substantially completed.

“Pursuant to the order we will submit all necessary documentation once construction has reached substantial completion,” Project Engineer Matthew Curtis wrote in the letter.

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