Price, Quality Assailed at Hearing on Proposed Water Rate Increase

Complaining that their water is sometimes cloudy and the price too high, several Norwalk and Bellflower residents asked the Public Utilities Commission this week to lower the rates they pay to the Park Water Co.

The Downey-based company had proposed a general rate increase of 17.7% for its customers, including 7,000 residents in Norwalk and Bellflower and 4,500 residents in Compton. The company revised its request to 10.4% after the commission made a recommendation to grant a 5% increase.

The commission held one of several hearings at Norwalk City Hall to give residents a chance to testify.

Both Norwalk Mayor Robert White and Bellflower Mayor Joseph Cvetko spoke against the proposal, saying the water company already charges the highest rates of any water company serving the cities.

"Park Water rates are the highest of five companies serving Norwalk. Why should citizens in the Park Water part of the city have to pay more than other areas?" White asked.

Marie O'Donnell, a Cerritos resident who owns six apartments in Norwalk, said she constantly gets complaints from her tenants about the quality of the water. "When you hold up the water, it looks like pieces of toilet paper are in it," she said.

The company is asking for the increase--which would add about $1.60 to the average residential bill--due to increased costs and to receive a "fair rate of return" on its investment.

The commission will continue to take testimony this week and may make a decision in 90 days, said Robert Barnett, the administrative judge hearing the case.

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