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Behind on your water bill? Virginia wants you to have more time

Wednesday - 2/23/2011, 7:01am  ET

faucet_375 (AP)
The bill before Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell would give customers at least 20 days to pay up on a past due bill. (AP)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia is moving to grant you more time to pay your water bill before a private water company steps in and shuts it off.

A bill just approved in the General Assembly, but yet to be signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, will require private water companies, such as Virginia American Water Co., to give customers at least 20 days to pay up on a past due bill and at least 10 days written notice before the valves are actually shut off.

Delegate Dave Englin, D-Alexandria, who sponsored the bill, says complaints about Virginia American Water's "aggressive cutoff practices" prompted the bill.

Englin says he tested the company himself by not paying one of his own water bills.

"The first thing I received from them, just a couple of days after the bill was due, was a notice of final service cutoff," says Englin.

Virginia American Water serves 300,000 people in Northern Virginia, including residents of Alexandria and Prince William County.

David Barney, a spokesman for Virginia American Water, says the company gives 10 days notice on all shutoffs and has a program to help people who have trouble paying their bills.

The legislation only affects private water companies. Municipal water systems have their own policies on late bills.

American Water Works Company, Virginia American Water's parent company, is the largest private water company in the U.S.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)