Massanutten residents continue to see staggering water bills

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:41 PM EDT
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MASSANUTTEN, Va. (WHSV) - Some people living in Massanutten are frustrated as they continue to deal with much higher water and sewer rates than surrounding localities. On average, Massanutten residents are paying more than double the state average on their monthly water and sewer bills.

The primary reason for this is that the water and sewer system in Massanutten is controlled by a private company called Utilities, Inc. rather than a local government.

“It’s a private company that seems to have a monopoly. When you call them and talk to them... they’re nice but they don’t seem to have any answers for why the prices are three times anywhere else,” said Jonathan Tong, a Massanutten resident.

Tong moved to Massanutten from Harrisonburg last year with his wife and two young children, and while he said he knew the water would more expensive, he wasn’t expecting the significant increase in their bills.

“The prices were close to triple what they were in Harrisonburg, before that we were living in Florida and it’s still about three times the price up here,” said Tong.

For years, Massanutten residents have been urging the State Corporation Commission to help them get their water and sewer rates lowered but thus far they’ve gotten no help.

“Here you don’t have a door to knock on or a Board of Supervisors to go sit in on to complain or anything. You walk around, there are not that many young families on the mountain anymore, they can’t afford to purchase a home here knowing that’s a big expense,” said Kim Cameron, who has lived in Massanutten for 25 years.

Over the last year, Cameron has collected data on Massanutten’s water and sewer rates. According to the data the average monthly water and sewer bill, this year in Massanutten is $194.28 compared to $62.85 in Harrisonburg.

A chart comparing the monthly water & sewer rates in Massanutten to neighboring localities.
A chart comparing the monthly water & sewer rates in Massanutten to neighboring localities.(WHSV)

“I’ve got a family of three and ours runs about 200 dollars a month so if you have a growing family I’m sure it’s maybe 250 or more a month without end in sight,” said Cameron.

In addition to the high rates, Massanutten residents also have concerns about the quality of water and the time it takes to fix leaks and other issues.

“We have one of the highest water rates in all of Virginia and people have a sense that we’re not getting the best service. We have a lot of breaks and the water pressure is not always great at the top,” said Daryl Borgquist, President of the Massanutten Property Owners Association.

In the last two years, Rockingham County has been attempting to purchase the water system from Utilities, Inc. Negotiations are ongoing but county officials say the process has been slow.

“The county’s done a lot of work to try to get in and assess it, it’s just taken a long time because these companies like the return that they’re getting and they really don’t want to sell it,” said Borgquist.

In the meantime, residents are worried their bills will continue to increase. Cameron and her neighbors have petitioned for the SCC and state legislators to lend a hand.

“I sent some of this information out to our local representatives to say can you assist us to at least request that the SCC impose a moratorium on rate increases at least until the county takes over the system,” said Cameron.

Cameron and others say that rate increases have been consistent. Borgquist said he anticipates Utilities, Inc. will raise rates again relatively soon.

“Truthfully they’re on a three-year cycle for these rate increases and although we’re already the very highest we expect them to be asking for a rate increase again in the fall. We haven’t seen it but it’s been like clockwork,” he said.

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