Several hundred protesters are expected in downtown Raleigh this evening to object to their water and sewer bills.
The placard-carriers will be objecting a proposed rate increase by Aqua North Carolina, a private utility that serves communities without municipal water/sewer hookups.
Dozens are expected to attend a public hearing on Aqua's proposed rate hike, to be argued before the N.C. Utilities Commission in the Dobbs Building at 430 Salisbury Street. About a hundred plan to demonstrate outdoors near the commission's office, said organizer Juli Williams, an Aqua customer who lives in the Mallard Crossing community in north Raleigh.
Aqua charges about $100 for a typical monthly bill, about about twice as high as high as municipal utility departments in Raleigh, Charlotte and other towns.
The company is asking the N.C. Utilities Commission for 20.4 percent more for water service and 16.4 percent more for sewer service. It's Aqua's second rate request in three years.
Aqua provides water and/or sewer service to about 88,000 people in parts of 48 counties, including more than 400 subdivisions in Wake County.
Cary-based Aqua North Carolina is a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Aqua America, the nation's second-largest private water utility.
The company says it had spent $25 million upgrading its pipes.
Raleigh is one of six venues for public hearings on the proposed rate increase. Last week the utilities commission held a hearing in Winston-Salem and has scheduled a hearing next week in Charlotte.
The utilities commission is also planning an evidentiary hearing -- featuring engineers, accountants and other expert witnesses -- to review a state audit of Aqua's finances in order to determine if the company's rate increase is justified. That hearing, also open for public comment, is scheduled in Raleigh in June.