I have received a lot of negative emails and comments from constituents about the recent wastewater rate increase effective October 1st asking me to do something. I understand the frustration of those asking “…How can my sewer bill be several times higher than my water bill?…” Within this post I am not going to address issues of questionable sewer bills due to leaks, filling pools, etc., but I am attempting to give everyone a laymen’s insight as to why your sewer bill is as high as it is, and why it will continue to increase over the next several years.
Everyone needs to remember three very important facts concerning comparing your water bill (TAWC) to your waste water sewer bill (WWTA);
- It costs a lot more money to install sewer lines which run from 8″ diameter to 48″ diameter plus the instalation costs of large pump storage stations. Most clean water lines servicing your property are less than 8″ diameter and have water towers or ground level storage tanks that only handle clear clean water. Sewers must handle whatever foreign objects that may end up in the lines (leafs, tampons, baby wipes, tree limbs, dirt, rocks, cans, household trash, etc.). This can lead to expensive pump repairs and/or shortened equipment life which adds to the cost of maintaining the entire system which in turn leads to higher wastewater rates.
- It costs a lot more to clean wastewater to State and Federal acceptable levels for release back into our rivers and streams than it does to filter and clean river water making it suitable for drinking. Think about it; take three (3) five gallon buckets. Fill one with sewage from your house, fill one with water from the Tennessee River, and fill one with water from your kitchen faucet. Now ask yourself, how much effort would it take to clean the sewage to look like the river water versus how much effort it would take to clean the river water to look like kitchen faucet water. Which five gallons would you rather clean up and at how much cost and effort will it take? I choose the river water.
- Many of the miles and miles of waste water systems taken over by the WWTA from the cities of East Ridge, Signal Mountain, Lookout Mountain, Red Bank, Soddy Daisy, Lakesite and Ridgeside needed tens of millions of dollars of repairs and updating because of the lack of actions taken by previously elected officials tasked with the responsibility of maintaining these systems. They literally kicked the proverbial “deferred maintenance can” down the road over the past forty to fifty years. The WWTA accepted responsibility to upgrade and maintain these out-of-date and poorly maintained systems just a generation ago. As a result, the WWTA director, board and staff have been faced with the incredible challenge of trying to make up for the crisis created due to decades of deferred maintenance over a much shorter period of time. The WWTA has been battling this crisis over the past ten years and will continue to do so over the next twenty years. This battle to correct and expand the WWTA system is costing hundreds of millions of dollars and will continue to cost tens of millions of dollars well into the future.
I know this explanation does not ease the pain of higher sewer rates, but perhaps you will have a better understanding as to why your sewer rates are what they are, and why they will continue to rise in the future. So please keep these three important points in mind when you are complaining about your waste water rates going up.
I am sympathetic to everyone’s concerns about their rates going up, but I also think the WWTA has been facing a huge challenge over the entire county to repair and expand our waste water system to meet the demands of regulatory laws and economic growth of our community. I sincerely feel our WWTA Director, Staff and Board are doing everything possible to meet the demands of TDEC (State regulators) and EPA (Federal Regulators) while facing the backlash of their customers as the rates continue to increase.
If anyone wishes to personally discuss the WWTA and sewer rates with me, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Tim Boyd, District 8 – Hamilton County Commissioner