Water and sewer rates in Springfield will increase nearly 40 percent over the next three years to pay for more than $80 million in federally mandated projects designed to cut down on raw sewage overflows into local waterways.
The Springfield City Commission approved increases of 13.7 percent in 2018 and 13 percent in both 2019 and 2020 at last week’s meeting. Springfield’s water rate remains one of the lowest in the region, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.
The projects have been mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said last month.
“The federal government is making us spend money and isn’t giving us any money to cover that, so this has to be paid for by the local folks,” he said. “The feds are the ones who decided we had to spend it. It wasn’t our decision. We didn’t have a choice.”
All bills are calculated based on water usage. A typical home using about 3,000 gallons of water per month paid about $32 per month for sewer and water last year. With the hike, that same home will see its rate increase to $36.37 next year, $41.11 in 2019 and $46.46 in 2020.
Springfield is expected to spend more than $250 million over the next 25 years on sewer projects as part of its combined sewer overflow program, designed to keep raw sewage from flowing into local streams and waterways, such as Buck Creek and Mad River.
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Last year the city saw a decrease in its overall water usage due to one major business leaving town and overall conservation efforts at both homes and businesses. The city’s sewer fund is projected to have about $6 million in debt next year to pay for those combined sewer overflow projects, officials said.
The $60 million high-rate treatment clarifier — the single most expensive item ever approved by city commissioners — began construction in 2012 and was completed in 2016. The plant now has the capacity to treat up to 140 million gallons of sewage per day.
The $20 million Erie Express Sewer, which will send sewage from the area of Bechtle Avenue and Ohio 41 straight to the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Dayton Avenue, is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in November of 2018.
Springfield ranked among the 10 lowest cities in the region for water and sewer utility rates this year, according to the annual Oakwood Water and Sewer Rate Survey released in March. Springfield residents pay about $189 every three months for combined water and sewer, based on 22,500 gallons of water used every three months, ranking seventh lowest overall.
Water rates have remained stable for nearly 9 years. With the increase, Springfield’s rate will remain in the bottom-15 municipalities in the 63-community region, officials said.
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By the Numbers
$250 million: Estimated total cost of all projects required to cut down raw sewage overflows into local waterways.
$80 million: Money the city has spent on federally mandated sewer projects since 2012.
$60 million: Cost of the high-rate treatment clarifier at the wastewater treatment plant, the single most expensive item ever approved by city commissioners.
13: Percentage increase of water and sewer rates in each of the next three years.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively on the city’s Combined Sewer Overflow long-term control plan for the past several years, including stories digging into the costs and the amount of sewage released into local waterways.