ALCOSAN to raise rates, service charge

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The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, which services 320,000 customers in 83 communities in the Pittsburgh area, says it will increase rates 17 percent next year, part of a series of rate-and-fee hikes it says is necessary to comply with federal mandates to cut down on the billions of gallons of untreated sewage discharged into local rivers and creeks every year.

Starting in 2014, the usage rate will increase 73 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used to $5.05. The quarterly customer service charge will increase to $10.61. The authority says an homeowner using 15,000 gallons of water per quarter, which a spokeswoman defined as an average customer, will seen an increase of $4.19 per quarter. Since ALCOSAN bills municipalities, not individual customers, in all but three of the communities it serves, the charges will be in addition to whatever rate or fee increases local water and sewer authorities are enacting.

“Consumers also should be aware that 80 of the 83 communities ALCOSAN serves place an additional charge on the ALCOSAN rates with proceeds earmarked for community-owned sewer line repair, replacement and maintenance,” an ALCOSAN news release says.

The 2014 increases are just the beginning.

The rates are scheduled to increase 11 percent each year in 2015, 2016 and 2017, part of a steady series hikes initiated in 2008 to comply with a federal consent decree between the authority and the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the area into compliance with clean water laws.

Nancy Barylak, a spokeswoman for the authority, said an average of 8 to 10 billion gallons of untreated wastewater are discharged into waterways in the authority’s service area as a result of aging and overwhelmed infrastructure.

The increases will pay for $70 million in bonds issued to fund capital projects such as interceptor tunnel cleaning, pump station volume upgrades, grit chambers to collect sediment, new flap gates at the end of discharge pipes and biosolids recycling planning, among others.

“Throughout the year, we challenge each department to reduce costs,” ALCOSAN Executive Director Arletta Scott Williams said the news release. “However, we have said time and again that rate increases to fund federally mandated projects contained in a consent decree to address sewer overflows would be needed. This structure will assist everyone in future planning as opposed to waiting to change from year to year.”

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