We voted on an increase in our Sewer Rates at the Council of a Whole Committee Meeting on Tuesday Night; Unanimous 10-0 (Green absent).
(Note map attached is Sewer lines noted in need of repair/separation-- if interested in areas contact me and I can blow up that area and post/share)
As I’ve noted in previous posts:
1. Wastewater rates are going to be increased starting June 1st--- for the average family the increase is approx. $6 per month this first year (FY19), $6 per month more in FY 20, et cetera for likely 10 more years. (Funding plan for 5 years now...)
1A: The Average Family is estimated at (3) people, usage 75 Gal/day each. Total of approx 6,975Gal/Month or 936CF/Month. 1 Cubic Foot (CF) = 7.48 Gallons
2. We need to fund +/-$100M over the next 10 years (currently we have approx.. $12M in reserve accts for funding projects)
3. Largely we need to fund projects per consent decree with EPA; violations of the clean water act with sewer overflows into River due to CSS system.
4. We have 134 miles of Gravity Sewer Lines and +/-9.2miles of CSS (Combined Sewer System) lines which need to be addressed (to reduce amount of storm water we treat).
5. The majority of Fitchburg is on Sewer Lines.
6. Estimated that 10% of Sewer lines are 'ready to fail' many broken clay pipes.... 4.7miles have a 'Fail' grade, 9.7 miles have a 'Poor' grade.... and 104.7miles have a grade 'Fair through No defects'... while 23.3miles of our Sewer still has not been graded (could be failing or no defects?)
7. We also need to upgrade the east treatment facility to improve performance and reduce nutrients per EPA.
8. The West Fitchburg plant does *not* treat wastewater anymore; but is a pumping station to the East Plant (by the airport, commissioned in 1974)
9. Some notable projects: CSS Separation of South Street, Senna Rd, Spruce Rd & Manholes FY17-FY23, an SSU (Secondary Systems Upgrade) of $22M, a Tertiary Treatment (Nutrient pollution reduction like nitrogen and phosphorus) upgrade of +/-$29M
Here were notes of my Questions and Answers from Tuesday Night:
Sewer Rates Comparison (per 100 cubic feet) 3-27-18
Leominster: in town sewer: $3.97 out of town $8.59
Billerica: $4.65 in town, $8.62 out-of-town
Worcester: $6.92 ($7.08 2018 proposed)
Fitchburg: 7.30 now ($7.88 2018 proposed up to $10.38 in 2022) (Fitchburg has a discount for the first 300 cf $6.28 to 6.79 to $8.94 in 2022)
Adams charges half their water bill for sewer
On how our rates are so much higher than surrounding communities...
1. Is there any indication of Future or Current Increases for other cities & towns or by 2022 do you anticipate Fitchburg's rates being among the highest in the State? (Answer: Difficult to answer… not answered)
2. On how our rates are so much higher than surrounding communities... We handle Westminster and Lunenburg's Wastewater as well correct? (Answer: a small portion) Are these fee rates the same across all customers of the system? (Answer: the fees are the same) Or are there different rates for other towns/cities? (Answer: The fees are the same) Are there in-town and out-of-town rates? Should there be? (Leominster and Billerica have in-town/out-of-town rates for example)
a. To lessen the utility increase burden on Fitchburg Residents, is it feasible to consider a lower in-town rate for Fitchburg users, and a Higher out-of-town rate for other users? (The low percentage of out of city usage, combined with the negotiation of intermunicipal agreements may make this more difficult and less advantageous for us than for other communities)
3. Per the EPA Consent decree from 2010 for the East Plant near Airport Rd, we still have to complete a Secondary Systems project and a Tertiary Systems Project-- to reduce Nutrient Pollution such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus.
Of these two needed Capital Project costs listed for these are $31M for a secondary systems upgrade and $29M for a Tertiary Treatment upgrade—
a. The Secondary System Upgrade bid was awarded in Jan 2017, est to begin construction Oct 2019, the total awarded contract price was $20.3M and the total estimated cost for the Teritary Treatment upgrade was $22.1M in 2012.
b. The requests for funds for the SSU are $10.7M higher requested than the bid and the request for Tertiary is $6.9M higher than the estimate --- why are these requested numbers so high? (Answer: $31M as shown was an error/oversight in the model, actual rate calculation used $22M and the $6.9M for Tertiary was added as a cushion for future increases)
4. “Being Designed for Today” As we are looking 10 years into the future, do these processes include addressing emerging contaminants such as Endocrine Disrupters, Viruses, or pathogenic Prions? If required by the EPA in the next few years, can these treatments be added without significant cost? (Answer: there is awareness of Emerging Contaminants, but no preparations or plans are being made for implementation)
5. The Wastewater fund is an Enterprise Fund, so it operates as its own ‘not-for-profit’ business within the city correct? When was the last time there was an independent audit and review of the wastewater department efficiency, expenses and suggestions for cost-cutting measures? (Answer: Not aware of an independent audit being done here or anywhere in the state--- but an audit of the entire city including the Wastewater Dept is done yearly by an outside firm, and they are guided by the city Auditor)
6. We were discussing an anaerobic treatment a couple years ago but have held off on that discussion in recent years. Was the discussion on a Fitchburg facility only or a regional anaerobic treatment facility? One that increased our economy of scale? ....for example one that handled Fitchburg, Westminster, Lunenburg, Gardner, Templeton, Ashburnham and whatever other areas the Templeton treatment facility/Gardner Sludge Landfill covers and/or whatever other customer load we could handle?
a. Distribute cost and money-saving benefits among the communities it would serve?
b. Lessen the amount of landfill space we are occupying with our sludge
c. Locate this at the West Fitchburg Pumping Facility?
(Answer: The anaerobic digestion is not ‘off the table’ it is being considered for regional use, but they are not actively planning for this at this time)