After customer complaints, York County to buy private utility in $36M acquisition

·3 min read

York County announced it will acquire the Blue Granite Water Company’s utility system in Lake Wylie. The move comes after Channel 9 has reported on several customer complaints about Blue Granite’s water quality and customer service.

On Friday, York County said it will condemn the private utility in order to acquire its Water and Waste Water Utility System. Blue Granite serves more than 4,000 customers in the Lake Wylie area, which amounts to roughly 10,000 people, the county said.

“York County has been in negotiations with Blue Granite for more than a year, while assessing the current system, and initiating cost, engineering, and environmental studies,” the county said in a news release.

READ MORE: Some York County customers complain about Blue Granite Water Company

The York County Council will have its first reading Tuesday to allocate funding for the transaction. It’s expected to cost $36 million.

The customers in the Lake Wylie service area will see a surcharge on their monthly bills to cover the cost of the acquisition, York County said. However, those customers should see a decrease in their sewer and water bills, officials said.

“We expect this purchase to provide additional long-term cost savings to water/sewer customers by providing a more stable rate environment,” officials said.

Current York County water and sewer customers and residents with private well and septic systems won’t see any changes from the purchase.

The process is expected to take several months, York County said.

In April 2021, Jason Habbal told Channel 9 the Blue Granite Water Company’s water “smells bad. It taste bad.”

He won’t drink it. “We buy jugs of water,” he told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke. “We probably buy 30 to 40 gallons a month of that that we use for drinking so we don’t have to use their water.”

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But, he said, his bills are still high. “The rates just keep going up and up and up,” he said. “When does it stop? Are you going to pay $500 a month for water? Are we going to pay $300 before somebody sets something in motion to fix it?”

As for the water taste and appearance, Blue Granite told Stoogenke, “Blue Granite has always maintained strict adherence to all state and federal standards with regard to water quality, and the fact that water aesthetics are not regulated by those standards supports the notion that water aesthetics are not tied to safety and quality. Also, there are simply too many factors that can impact taste, color or smell that Blue Granite cannot control once water passes to the customer.”

As for customer service, the utility said, “In this most recent rate case, customers testified publicly under oath before the Public Service Commission that many, if not a majority of their service complaints stemmed from years past, not recent experiences, and were resolved long before the Company’s rate application. When more recent issues were raised, Blue Granite held open meetings with customers around the state to hear concerns and state our commitment to addressing issues our customers were facing. We also encourage any customer with an issue to contact the Company so it can be resolved.”

As for the rates, the company said, “As a privately-owned utility, Blue Granite’s rates are higher than public utilities due to a myriad of factors, most notably the taxes that the Company pays that municipalities and counties do not.”

The company also said, “Blue Granite Water Company purchases water from York County. Therefore, the water that everyone in our footprint consumes is the same as everyone else in the entire county. The water aesthetics are the same for everyone and not a condition of Blue Granite Water Company. It is a pass-through water purchase, which means if York County raises our price, the rates for the customer are also raised.”

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