UTICA — In April, Oneida County Sewer District ratepayers can expect to see an annual increase to pay for the first round of work completed at the Water Pollution Control Plant.
The increases will boost rates from $4.13 per 1,000 gallons of consumption to $4.52 per 1,000 gallons, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said at a news conference Monday morning.
On average, that would be an increase of $5.26 for a single person household for roughly 13,500 gallons per year, he said.
“We have aging systems that need repair,” Picente said. “The sewer rate increase … needs to be raised to help pay for this system. We have been telling people about this all along. … When people see an increase in their sewer rates, it is because of this problem.”
In addition to the sewer district rate, customers might have an additional municipal rate to fund local sewer system repairs and improvements. Those rates would be determined at the city, town and village level.
The district also will tap into a reserve fund to help reduce the impact of the rate increase on district customers, Picente said.
Camera inspection of the sewer pipe system and assessments of the pumps and treatment facilities have shown that fixing the system would be a major undertaking, costing more than $330 million at its conclusion, he said.
“We knew that when it came time to start paying back the debt service on these facility improvements and upgrades that there would be an impact on the ratepayers,” said Steven Devan, Oneida County Department of Water Quality and Water Pollution Control commissioner, in a news release. “With this in mind, we were conservative in our spending and saved our surpluses to be able to help make the increases more gradual and manageable.”
Residents within the Sauquoit Creek Pumping Station Basin — the towns of New Hartford, Paris and Whitestown; and villages of Clayville, New Hartford, New York Mills, Whitesboro, Oriskany and Yorkville — will continue to pay an additional surcharge to fund the first $25.8 million in sanitary sewer system repairs and improvements specific to those municipalities.
The repairs directly relate to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s 2007 consent order to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows at the Sauquoit Creek Pumping Station, Picente said.
On a normal day, the sanitary sewer system has enough capacity to operate properly, Picente said. When there is heavy rains or snowmelt in the region, however, the system becomes overwhelmed with clean stormwater, which causes overflows into the Mohawk River.
In some cases, residents can even experience backups into their homes or overflows onto the street.
Because of the overflow concerns, a steering committee has been meeting since 2007 to come up with a plan to fix the problem. The committee consists of representatives from each of the 15 district municipalities.
The first part of the plan involves fixing aging and failing sanitary sewer pipes. Then, the plan is to remove stormwater and other materials from the sewers to maintain capacity. Lastly, the committee noted the need to upgrade treatment and pumping facilities.
“With these investments, all OCSD residents can have the peace of mind that we will avoid catastrophic system failure,” Picente said. “In addition, we are setting in place the mechanisms to ensure the ongoing maintenance of the system in the future, including the formation of a shared services plan to minimize the burden on district communities.”
Contact reporter Samantha Madison at 315-792-5015 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Madison).