Thursday, July 29, 2010
By James Lomuscio
Should a single person pay the same sewer use charges as an active family of six despite obvious discrepancies in the number of showers, loads of laundry and toilet use?
Users of the town’s water pollution control facility will have a new way of calculating their sewer use fees. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Westport’s Board of Selectmen does not think so, and acting as the Water Pollution Control Authority, voted Wednesday for more equitable sewer fees based on usage effective Sept. 1.
“The bottom line is that this is a fairer method,” said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff. “Right now everyone pays the same rate to be hooked up to a sewer, whether they are an empty nester or have six kids.”
The new plan prorates sewer use based on the amount of water each home uses via an Aquarion Water Company meter, Joseloff said. Water in equals water going out, he said, not including warmer months with garden and lawn irrigation.
According to Stephen Edwards, director of the Department of Public Works, between 60 and 70 percent of Westport properties are on sewers, about 7,300 units, each one paying an across the board annual rate of $382. The estimated use charge for the coming year would climb to $425.
However, using the new water consumption formula, the estimated charge per residence could be between $300 and $900.
“The way I equate it is an elderly couple living in a 1,500-square-foot house on Vani Court is now paying the same as someone in a four-bedroom home on Pumpkin Hill,” said Edwards. “But this new way you will be billed on the amount of water you consume and put into the system.”
Edwards said the town will base sewer fees on usage on a six-month average from November to April “and multiply that times two to get an annual consumption rate.”
The six months would not include months when residents might be using sprinkler systems or filling swimming pools, water that would not find its way into sewers.
Also under the plan, owners of commercial buildings have the option of installing a “water discharge-side” meter, reading only water being discharged, not water going into the facility.
Edwards said that Fairfield, Bridgeport, Trumbull and Seymour have similar sewer payment plans in place.
Edwards and Joseloff agreed that the new system will be an incentive for residents, who already being billed for water, to keep their consumption down. That in turn will put less strain on the town’s sewage treatment system, they said, extending its longevity.
“We built a new sewage treatment about five years ago for $37 million, and we’re paying that of from fees,” Joseloff said. “The life of a sewage treatment plant is about 20 years, but we could extend that by having less water come into the plant.”
Edwards said the plant, designed to hold a maximum capacity of 3.4 million gallons daily, typically handles between 1.8 to 2 million gallons each day, and as much as 2.8 million during the wet, spring months.
“The better we can manage it, the longer we can extend its life expectancy,” said Edwards. “Good flow is part of good management.”
While the town has been working toward this more equitable way of charging sewer use fees for years, the recent preparation work for the change uncovered what had essentially been a free ride for some Westporters, Edwards told the selectmen.
“We found about a dozen homes using Aquarion water that did not have meters,” he said.
Posted 07/29/10 at 10:55 PM Permalink
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There has been no free ride for Westporters who do not have meters. If you don’t have a meter your water usage is monitored through your neighbor’s meter and you have the obligation to pay him for your water usage. I know, because I live at Old Mill and there are 3 houses serviced by my meter. For sewer usage the Town will have to figure out a way to bill the other 2 houses directly for their use of sewers.
And, it’s about time the Town is instituting this procedure. The State made this a requirement years ago. Westport is way behind and small property owners have been overbilled for sewer usage for years.
Thanks Mr. Joseloff! Does this mean I’ll be getting a refund for the past 19 years?!
—wishful thinking ;-)