Photo courtesy of Dale Kast.

Residents of Ashe Plantation are happy to hear that after years of communication with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Town of Mint Hill their roads will finally be repaired.  The town and state will repair the parts of the neighborhood, located off Hwy. 218, and when the work is completed, the town will maintain the roads.  This does not mark the end of Ashe Plantation’s utility problems, though.

Ashe Plantation’s homeowner association president, Sharon Decker, says residents are being overcharged and disregarded by their water company, Aqua North Carolina.  Her neighborhood isn’t alone.  Aqua services a number of communities in Mecklenburg County, including Farmwood East, Glencroft, Oxford Glen, Rocky Ridge, Belle Meade, Timberlands, and Wyndham.

Decker met with Stan Coleman from Park South Station in Charlotte about the issue.  As an Aqua customer, Coleman has been working toward finding a solution to the problems he has with the company.  He filed a formal complaint two years ago.

Coleman directed answers about Aqua’s ethical practices to Clean Water for North Carolina, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to promote clean, safe water and environments and empowered, just communities for all North Carolinians through community organizing, education, advocacy and technical assistance.”
The organization published a 2011 report called “Privatizing North Carolina’s Water, Undermining Justice.”  The report acknowledges the Park Foundation and the Duke University Stanback Internship Program for supporting the research, investigations, and preparation of the report.

The report reads: “Concern is growing among customers of private companies about the ‘revolving door’ between the [North Carolina Utilities Commission], the Public Staff, and private companies… Jo Ann Sanford, the attorney who currently represents Aqua NC in its rate case proceedings, chaired the NC Utilities Commission until 2006.  William Grantmyre, currently an attorney with Public Staff who is assigned to Aqua’s 2011 rate case, served as president of Heater Utilities, now a subsidiary of Aqua NC.”

The North Carolina Utilities Commission is a state agency created by the General Assembly.  The commission’s mission statement says it will “provide fair regulation of public utilities in the interest of the public.”

Decker and her neighbors report regular monthly water bills above $100, and even above $200.  Apart from the high rates, they say they are receiving poor service and dirty water.  Icemakers and coffeemakers are ruined within less than a year of use.  Showerheads accrue mineral build-up at fast rates.  They find sand and grit in their faucet aerators.

Decker intends to host a meeting among HOA representatives from other Mint Hill neighborhoods serviced by Aqua.  She is considering creating a non-partisan committee whose mission is to make their water issues known to local politicians.

Aqua customers in Mint Hill plan to use the July 17 runoff election to make their issue known.  This election between Jeffe Tarte and John Aneralla will decide the new state senator for District 41.  Coleman has talked to Aneralla about the Aqua issue.

“The legislature could take care of this,” said Coleman.  He is spreading the word about early voting for the District 41 election.

Coleman wrote an email for HOAs to send to their neighborhoods.  It reads, “As it turns out, our new senate district has a lot of Aqua communities located in Mint Hill, Cornelius, Charlotte, and southern Iredell County – several thousand customers total.  Because turnout for the runoff election will be very small, the winner will be decided by a few hundred perhaps a few dozen votes,” and goes on to say that both candidates need to hear from District 41 Aqua customers.