Sewer bills in Liberty Lake will be $9 more when they arrive in mailboxes next month.
The increase is what the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District commissioners concluded Aug. 15 that they’d need to cover the sewer costs through 2008 with more increases to follow as needed.
“They made some recommendations for future rates up to 2015,” said Lee Mellish, district director. “The board, I think, has pretty well decided that probably on an annual basis we will raise the rate $1 a year for the next few years and keep analyzing how we’re doing to see if we need more.”
Two things are driving costs upward, said Commissioner Frank Boyle. General operating costs for the sewer system are trending upward. But there are also tougher state regulations on the horizon for discharging water into the Spokane River. Treated sewer water still contains nutrients that gobble up river water oxygen, essentially competing with fish and aquatic plants.
State ecologists are expected to set new standards for discharge water quality and when they do, Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District and other polluters will have to buy the needed equipment to meet the new demands. Plant improvements have been ongoing. Ratepayers are currently paying down a 20-year, $7 million loan to fund a recent plant expansion.
“I guess our customers have a lot of faith in us because I’ve heard absolutely no complaints,” said Boyle of the increase.
Sewer bills are issued quarterly, so the $9 increase on billing statements actually reflects a monthly increase of $3, pushing flat rate sewer charges up from $23 a month to $26. It’s the first increase since 2005.
A smaller number of ratepayers will see a larger increase in their bills. District customers that have reserved sewer plant capacity as an assurance there will be space for them if they need it in the future will see a monthly increase of $4.31 for their reservation. Those customers like Agilent Technologies Inc., currently pay $15 for every 240-gallon unit of reserved capacity. Some customers have hundreds of units in waiting.