TALLAHASSEE, Florida, (ENS) – Calling reports of diseases caused by drinking water containing bacteria and disinfection byproducts “deeply troubling,” Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum today said he will ask the Public Service Commission to deny a steep revenue increase requested by the company Aqua Florida.

The increase could be as high as 355 percent for water and 320 percent for wastewater service, depending on the system, said McCollum’s office in a statement Friday

Aqua Utilities Florida, Inc. is a subsidiary of Aqua America, Inc., the largest publicly-traded water utility based in the United States.

Aqua Utilities Florida, Inc. serves about 110,000 residents throughout parts of the following counties: Alachua, Brevard, Citrus, Highlands, Lake, Lee, Marion, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Seminole, Sumter, Volusia, and Washington.

Testimony taken by the commission in response to Aqua’s recent rate increase request has revealed allegations that numerous customers are being overcharged, customer service is substandard and the water quality is poor.

“Companies should spend more time serving their customers and less time trying to turn an undeserved profit,” said McCollum. “These allegations are deeply troubling and I would want to see the water quality addressed before any increase is granted.”

McCollum is concerned about testimony from community members with health problems from miscarriages to birth defects, thyroid malfunctions, skin diseases, and gastrointestinal ailments.

Several residents testified their medical conditions seemed to improve when they quit drinking tap water and started using bottled water, the AG’s office said.

“Some parents also testified that their children’s pediatricians had warned them not to let their children drink or even bathe in the water,” the attorney general said.

People testified about losing family pets to excessive liver toxins and cancer. by-product of chlorinated water “is considered by some to have seriously adverse health effects,” the AG’s office said

The Attorney General and the Office of Public Counsel will oppose Aqua’s request for a interim rate increase at the commission’s agenda conference on Tuesday, July 29.

Back in June 2007, Aqua Florida petitioned for an 80 percent increase in water revenues and a 105 percent increase in wastewater revenues. The company subsequently agreed to withdraw its petition, make refunds to customers and improve customer service and water quality.

“I have been fighting for quality water at reasonable rates for the people of my community, and I appreciate the intervention of Attorney General McCollum on their behalf,” said state Representative Sandy Adams, a Republican whose Orlando district encompasses the area serviced by Aqua Florida.

With her background in the U.S. Marine Corps and law enforcement, Adams emphasized the public health and safety part of the picture, saying, “This situation illustrates how important it is to protect our citizens.”