The city of Springfield residents may pay may for sewer services next year to pay for more than $80 million in federally mandated projects designed to cut down on raw sewage overflows into local waterways.
Earlier this year, sewer rates increased 7 percent, bringing the total monthly utility bill for water, sewer and stormwater for a typical home in Springfield to about $34, Springfield Finance Director Mark Beckdahl said.
The city has already approved another 7 percent sewer rate increase for next year; however, the sewer rate may increase further to allow Springfield to pay the debt on recent combined sewer overflow projects.
“We’ve talked about it for several years that it’s coming and unfortunately, it’s here,” Beckdahl said.
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 wastewater from flowing into local streams and waterways, such as the Mad River. Springfield must comply with the federal Clean Water Act, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said.
“This is a federal requirement, this isn’t our choice,” he said. “That’s the thing we have to keep telling people and whatever happens when the bill goes up, you have to tell them again.”
The city will host a work session at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday to discuss potential increases to utility bills. City staff members are still discussing possible rate changes, Beckdahl said.
The projects have been mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.
“We don’t have any choice,” Bodenmiller said. “I think we said four or five years ago, our rates would almost double over time. Many other communities are facing the same situation.”
All bills are calculated based on water usage. A typical home uses about 3,000 gallons of water per month and pays for about one ESU of stormwater per month, Beckdahl 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.
The city’s sewer fund is projected to have about $5.5 million in debt next year to pay for those projects.
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 overall.
With the planned increase, Springfield still has one of the most affordable utility rates in the region, Bodenmiller said.
“Even with these increases, we’re still in the bottom 50 percent,” he 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: Amount of 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.
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.