FREEPORT – The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved a 9 percent overall rate increase for users of Freeport’s water system, effective Aug. 1.

It’s the first rate increase since 2003 and applies to 960 customers in town, said Aqua Maine, the public utility that owns and operates the system.

“We continue to replace aging infrastructure throughout this system, and have made nearly $650,000 of capital improvements since the last time rates were increased,” said Judy Wallingford, president of Aqua Maine.

The increase doesn’t apply to 250 public water users in the village of South Freeport, which has a separate system that is operated, but not owned, by Aqua Maine.

With the rate hike, the average quarterly bill for a customer using 1,500 cubic feet of water will be $76.08, an increase of $7.77, according to Aqua Maine.

The commission also approved a reduction in the volume that qualifies for minimum base charges, from 1,200 cubic feet per quarter to 300 cubic feet per quarter.

The commission’s review confirmed that the rate changes were necessary for Aqua Maine to continue providing “an adequately safe and reliable level of service to its customers,” said Tom Welch, chairman of the PUC.

“It is always difficult for customers to bear increases in rates for essential services,” Welch said, noting that the increases may encourage water conservation and help reduce costs in the long run.

The water systems in Freeport and South Freeport are two of 20 systems in Maine that are owned or operated by Aqua Maine. It’s part of Aqua America, which provides water and wastewater services to more than 3 million customers in 12 states.

The commission approved similar increases for Aqua Maine in Skowhegan and Millinocket.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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