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Help for low-income customers

Pennsylvania American Water Co. works with Help to Others program to reduce water bills and encourage conservation.

While many utility companies offer financial assistance to low-income customers, one also provides free water-saving devices and plumbing help to encourage conserving water. That in turn saves dollars and cents.

In the past four months, at least 500 Luzerne County customers of Pennsylvania American Water Co. have taken advantage of the 15-year-old-program dubbed Help to Others, or “H2O.”

“... American Water has been able to go beyond providing financial assistance to customers in need and actually help them incorporate wise water usage practices in their everyday lives,” said Pennsylvania American Water President Kathy L. Pape.

With the economy slumping, requests for help from the program have skyrocketed, according to statistics provided by the water company.

From September through November 2007, 793 Luzerne County customers took advantage of the program. In that same time frame last year, the number nearly doubled, with 1,399 customers requesting assistance – 608 in November alone. December 2008 data was not available, a spokeswoman said.

CCI, a Pittsburgh-based energy and water conservation company that works with local low-income families to help them lower their utility bills by making wiser use of energy, is contracted by Pennsylvania American Water to oversee the statewide program.

“Pennsylvania American Water’s assistance to customers takes on another level of importance with the current state of the economy,” said CCI’s water conservation program manager Patricia Lovelace. “The result is cost savings for these households and their efficient use of energy resources.”

Susan Turcmanovich, a water company spokeswoman, said installing a low-flow showerhead or an aerator to a faucet is simple but can yield huge savings. She said little things, including dripping faucets, add up.

“It’s amazing how a small leak can run up water bills,” she said. “The best way to save money on your water bill is to conserve and use less water.”

The program is funded by voluntary customer contributions that are matched by the water company. Eligible customers are offered various means of assistance, including: a 65-percent discount on their water bills’ monthly service charge; a do-it-yourself kit with conservation tips and equipment; phone help with plumbing questions; and local plumbers who will perform work if needed.

Locally, Krasavage Plumbing in Swoyersville has done the work. Bryan Krasavage said most of it entails fixing leaky faucets and toilets. He said he’s been working with the program since its inception.

More than 13,000 Pennsylvania America customers have participated since the inception of H20 in 1993.

Need help?

Pennsylvania American Water’s Help to Others Program is administered by the Dollar Energy Fund, an independent, nonprofit organization established to help those in need pay their utility bills. For more information, or to inquire about program eligibility, customers can call 888-282-6816.

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