Dear Editor,

Residents of many apartment buildings in American Samoa are paying the Ground Water Protection (GWP) fee to ASPA even though there is no legal or regulatory basis for ASPA to charge them this fee. As a result ASPA is making thousands of dollars per month collecting money on a fee they are not entitled to collect.

If a multi-unit apartment building is served by only one water meter and only one sewer connection (the typical situation for apartment buildings), by regulation there is supposed to be only one GWP fee charged to that entire building.

Yet each apartment unit in these buildings may be paying a separate GPW fee (which appears on each unit’s bill), or in cases where a unit has a pre-paid power meter the GPW fee may be charged when power is purchased at the ASPA service counter.

At nearly $17 per month, the GPW fee is already quite substantial, and a four-unit apartment building, each unit with its own power meter, would be paying nearly $70 per month for the GPW fee when it should be paying a total of less than $17.

So the question is—why is this happening?

If you look at a monthly statement from ASPA, you will notice that power, solid waste, water, and the GPW fee all appear on separate lines. However, due to the way the billing system is set up (that is, via computer) even if there is no charge for water (because in reality there is no water meter) the GPW fee still appears on the statement, and of course must be paid regardless of the fact that there is no water meter. (In addition to apartment buildings, I suspect that the same thing is also happening in other situations where there is a power meter but no water meter; for example, a power meter serving a workshop or plantation.)

So how do you go about having this inappropriate GPW fee removed from your bill?

If you suspect that there is only one water meter and one sewer connection serving your apartment building (both conditions must apply), then go to the ASPA Customer Service department (do not go to the front service counter where you pay your monthly bill or purchase power as they cannot help you with this problem).

Ask to have your building inspected for its water and sewer connections (you do this through what is known as a Service Request). Someone from ASPA will (or should) come out to your building in a week or so to check your water and sewer connections.

If your building has only one water meter and only one sewer connection, then ASPA must stop charging the GPW fee on each separate unit and can charge only one GPW fee for the entire building. It may take a month or so for them to make this correction, but it will happen. (By the way, all it takes is for one resident or the landlord of the apartment building to make the request and all units in that building will receive the same billing correction.) 

And here is the best part of all: In addition to removing the GPW fee from each unit’s bill, ASPA is required, by law, to issue a refund (in the form of a credit) for all the months they charged the GPW fee to that bill but weren’t supposed to. And if the unit has been charged the GPW in error from the time it was first implemented (over two years ago) this will amount to several hundred dollars!

By the way, ASPA has known about this problem ever since the GPW fee was first put into place but has taken no action whatsoever in all that time to fix it. Of course, they have a good reason for not fixing it as they would lose several thousands of dollars of monthly revenue should they do so.

But one has to ask, is it fair that the utility continues to raise the GPW fee on customers who should not even be paying it to begin with? 


Bryan Jackson

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