Water customers rally over climbing bills, announce lawsuit

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MERRICK -

Some Nassau residents rallied outside a private water company on Sunday to announce a lawsuit about the rising costs of their bills.

Agatha Nadel, of Glen Head, says her bills from the utility have recently skyrocketed.  She showed News 12 a monthly bill for more than $700.

“This isn't a commodity. This isn't an iPhone, it isn't a sweater from Macy's. This is water,” she says.

Nadel is among about 15 percent of Nassau County residents and businesses serviced by New York American Water, a private company whose Long Island offices are in Merrick.

On Sunday, she joined a group outside the water company's headquarters, announcing a lawsuit against the water company and the state's Public Service Commission over recent rate hikes.

A big reason for the high price tag is that property taxes that are passed on directly to the consumer. Taxes alone can account for up to 72 percent of some of those high water bills. So the group of residents is calling on the town, the county and the state to make water services tax-exempt.

In a statement, the water company says it does not believe the legal action is a viable solution. However, it did agree that high taxes are a problem, writing, "We believe the tax burden that is placed on our company and then directly passed on to customers should be relieved given that water is essential to life."

In a statement to News 12, the Public Service Commission said, "The majority of the rate increase was due to local authorities approving tax levies on American Water, over which PSC has no control and is legally obligated to include in its rates. "

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