DENHAM SPRINGS - A wastewater treatment company has been answering customer questions following an announcement of a rate increase. Customers say they aren't happy to be paying for the company's required improvements.
Dewayne Masingale lives in the Arbor Walk subdivision of Denham Springs. He says he's upset that his sewer bill is now going to be more than his water bill. In the three years he's lived in his home, Masingale says Mo-Dad Utilities has made additions to their wastewater facility but it's not any better.
"Some days when the wind is just right, you can't even be outside and enjoy your backyard," he said.
When Masingale found out his bill was going up about $16 last month, he questioned why.
"Not right," he said. "Mo-Dad, get a grip."
Two weeks ago, Masingale got a letter in the mail from Mo-Dad Utilities COO William Stegall. The apology letter said it did not include sufficient information about the necessity of the rate increase and some customers got a bill without an explanation. The company, citing an error with its printing company, but accepts responsibility for the error.
As a result, MDU says it's voluntarily crediting customer accounts $16.54, which is the difference in the past rate to the new rate. Rate increases will resume for May.
MDU intended to send a letter last month prior to the receipt of the bill explaining the rate increases, which will go up in 2017, 2018 and reach $60.10 in April, 2019.
Masingale sites a number of issues with the Mo-Dad in his subdivision. Including over-flowing water, open pools of water, a fence that's open to children and animals, a smell that prevents him from enjoying the backyard and swarms of bugs that are attracted to the area.
"You better have your mouth closed, if not you're eating them," he said.
Over the years, the Department of Environmental Quality has found violations at MDU facilities, including high fecal coliform levels and untreated sewage. DEQ ordered the company to come into compliance, which MDU said it will need $17 million to accomplish.
In March 2017, the Public Service Commission unanimously voted in favor of a MDU rate increase. MDU was able to secure a 15-year loan agreement with CoBank for $17 million at a rate of 5.25 percent. The rate increase is necessary to cover the debt service requirements of the loan. MDU expects these proceeds to be available in the next six months.
Monday, 2 On Your Side sent video to MDU from the Arbor Walk Mo-Dad. MDU says it believes there is an intermittent issue that occurs when there's inclement weather to the "post-treatment chlorinator." It's working with the manufacturer to figure out why it happens and how to prevent it from happening. MDU says the leaking water is not raw sewage.
The fence around the Arbor Walk Mo-Dad was built several weeks ago. Following the installation, MDU was not impressed and has hired someone to make repairs. MDU says it should be corrected by the end of the week.
There are three rate workshops to address LDEQ Compliance Orders, utility operations and planned upgrades. The workshops will be open house format and MDU representatives will be available.