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Hillview Water users in eastern Madera County now have clean water, but it could come at a cost

Courtesy of Hillview Water Company

Clean water is here for Hillview Water Company customers in eastern Madera County, an announcement that has been more than 20 years in the making.

Hillview announced via news release that their $20 million water treatment plants became operational on Friday, March 1. Since 1994, business and residential customers in Oakhurst, Sierra Lakes, and Raymond had tap water with levels of iron, arsenic, uranium, and manganese that exceeded California’s limits. Water in Coarsegold and Goldside also required treatment for iron and manganese.

With the water treatment plants now up and running, Hillview reports that all of its 3,300 mountain area customers’ water now meets or exceeds state standards.

“When we began the process of looking for solutions to our water contamination problems and sources of funding, it never entered my mind that it would take 24 years before the problems would be 100-percent resolved,” said Hillview President Roger Forrester. “We never gave up and continued to pursue every avenue to make sure the problems would be solved.”

Over those 24 years, Hillview encountered a number of obstacles on the path to clean water for their customers, including “the bureaucratic process, changes in drinking water standards, bidding challenges, a state insolvency, contractor issues.”

When Hillview unveiled their improved water treatment facilities during a ribbon cutting ceremony in June of 2017, Forrester said he expected them to all be operational by April 2018. Come August of last year, the company announced that date had been pushed back to October.

Now with the facilities up and running, Hillview has requested permission from the California Public Utilities Commission to add a surcharge to all customers’ bills to help pay off the debt associated with the construction of the water treatment facilities.

If the CPUC grants Hillview permission to add the fee, 90 percent of Hillview customers can expect their bill to increase by about 10 percent, from $119.89 to $132.06, according to a news release. The remaining customers will also see an uptick in their bill proportionate to the capacity of their meter.

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The surcharges proposed for Hillview Water Company customers to the California Public Utilities Commission. The surcharge will be proportionate to the size of each customer’s meter. WILLIAM RAMIREZ wramirez@sierrastar.com

After 25 years, the bill would decrease by about 3 percent.

Hillview cites the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as one of the main reasons why they are requiring the surcharge on customers. The law made it so the company had to pay an income tax for the two grants they received, courtesy of Proposition 50 and Proposition 84.

The company has applied for a pair of loans to help cover some unexpected costs, including the income tax on the two grants it received and a set of grant funds the company never received due to “internal issues at the granting agencies.”

Forrester initially stated in 2017 that customers rates would not be increased as a result of the improved water treatment facilities.

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