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Columbia Missourian

Boone County sewer rates to increase less than projected

By Danny Mathis
November 21, 2009 | 5:32 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Although they may seem small, even the most incremental increases in consumers' monthly bills add up.

Board members of the Boone County Regional Sewer District seemed to be aware of that fact in approving a budget for 2010 that will save users more than three dollars monthly from what was originally projected.

A household dispensing 5,000 gallons of wastewater every month can expect to pay $36.33 instead of $39.41, which was once projected for 2010.

Factors surrounding the lower cost include stimulus funding and a budget proposal for the Southfork of the Grindstone subdivision that came in at about half of what was anticipated, sewer district General Manager Thomas Ratermann said.  

“Due to these two or three factors, we only need a 3 percent increase instead of a 14 percent increase (in fees),” Ratermann said. 

The sewer district has been increasing rates steadily each year since 1998 for households that are not hooked into a city sewer line. But according to Lesley Oswald, the manager of finance and administration for the sewer district, those increases have only been about 4 percent annually. 

A 2007 user rate study conducted by Kansas City-based Certified Public Accountant firm Stephen M. Connelly showed the optimal rate increase from 2009 to 2010 to be 14 percent in order to meet capital improvement requirements recently imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and properly manage operating costs.   

“(They) figure out what our fees need to be to meet our goals and stay in operation,” Oswald said. 

As stimulus money and surplus funds from an over-budgeted project materialized, it began to look as though a 14 percent increase might not be needed. 

The sewer district chose to have the same firm do another study to see if rates would be changed, and that led to the new projections for 2010. 

Ratermann said the Environmental Protection Agency’s heightened standards for discharged water caused the sewer district to compensate by increasing rates. Currently, water treatment facilities are required only to contain waste material in a facility while microorganisms break it down before discharging it. By 2013 they will be required to disinfect the water, depending on where the dump site is located. 

This disinfecting process can be achieved either by adding chlorine to the water, or by using ultraviolet light to kill pathogens, Ratermann said.  

According to Ratermann, of the sewer district's 40 or so treatment facilities scattered throughout Boone County, 20 must be updated to disinfect water before it is released.  

To meet these standards, their capital improvement plan stated that they would need to invest $21 million in these facilities to bring them up to par.      

The Boone County Regional Sewer District serves about 6,000 households in Boone County that aren’t served by a city sewer line. Many are on the outskirts of Columbia.  

“Most of our service areas are in a ring around Columbia,” Ratermann said.