LYNBROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Water isn’t gold, some Long Island ratepayers have been complaining – so why are their water bills rising?

As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, Raymond Sheehan of Massapequa said he keeps his sprinklers on a timer. His family runs the washing machine on short cycles, and they take showers rather than baths. But his water bills have tripled.

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“The bills are extraordinary,” Sheehan said. “It’s hard to believe.”

The Sheehans are among the 375,000 customers of what is now called the American Water Company on the South Shore of Long Island.

In April, the Public Service Commission granted the company a 12 percent rate hike over three years.

“Probably the people are seeing a hot dry summer – increased irrigation – plus the slight increase we did see April 1,” said New York American Water Company President William Varley. “And maybe that’s why bills are a little bit higher, but we will investigate them once they bring them forward.”

The water company acknowledged it has also received complaints about rusty water. The company brought CBS 2 inside three new plants that are online to eradicate naturally-occurring iron sediment.

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And although the Health Department has said the water is totally safe, families such as the Sheehans will not even drink it. Thus, they have the added expense of buying bottled water.

“I’m concerned about the health of it also – I mean, I’ve ruined clothes with this water – clothes that come out with orange stains on them,” Raymond Sheehan said.

The Sheehans said their neighbors on public water have it better. A local legislator claimed taxpayers are not protected from private monopolies over public services.

“The average bill in my district from the private monopoly over water is $1,100,” said Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg (D-Merrick.) “The average public water bill is about $300.”

Supporters of a public takeover have predicted it could mean long-term savings. But the Private Water Authority says it would result in loss of substantial property taxes it pays school districts, and homeowners would share the added burden.

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