By Chris Kopacko, Contributing Writer
“It's going to be more than 20 percent, and let's be transparent about that,” he said, referring to the anticipated increase customers will see in sewer rates, beginning on their December bill.
While water rates aren's expected to increase, a base fee of $10 per household ($30 per commercial) each quarter will also be assessed.
The news on the rate increases came as Department of Public Works Director Dan Nason and Chris Woodcock from Woodcock and Associates, along with Coderre, gave a presentation on the results of a water and sewer enterprise funds rate study. The study highlighted a recent $30 million expansion of the Marlborough Westerly Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) as the primary reason for the proposed hike in sewer rates. Northborough sends all of its wastewater to that plant for treatment.
Coderre said that uncertainty surrounding the WWPT expansion is why the town is unable to plan the future rates accordingly.
“We can's plan effectively about our rate increases on the sewer side because the permit is held up at the plant and we'se not being assessed,” he said. “That's the fundamental issue for us.”
In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted the WWPT a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, allowing the plant to increase its discharge capacity from 2.89 to 4.15 million gallons per day. Once the WWPT had begun the expansion however, the EPA withdrew the NPDES permit, barring Marlborough from entering into Inter-Municipal Agreement with the town of Northborough. Without the agreement, Northborough cannot be assessed for usage and predict costs.
Coderre said that the sewer rate increases are “the first step” in addressing the debt service the town will eventually see as a result of the WWPT expansion.
“20 percent is not going to do it. It's going to be more than that,” he said. “We may be looking at 20 percent increases consecutively. The reality is the rates have to generate the revenue to match the expenses.”
Coderre said a public hearing will be held on August 27 by the Water and Sewer Commission to discuss the new rate increases.
Coderre noted during the presentation that, upon approval of the selectmen, he would send a letter to the EPA requesting that they expedite the NPDES permit renewal, so that Northborough and Marlborough could begin negotiations. Selectmen unanimously voted to approve sending the letter to the EPA.
The report of the water and sewer rate study can be found on Northborough's website, http://www.town.northborough.ma.us/Pages/index. Click on “Town Departments,” then “Public Works” and then “Water and Sewer Study.”