Some sewer district ratepayers could see increases in their bills due to system upgrades required by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, officials say.
Three sewer districts in eastern Franklin County may combine in an effort to more cost-effectively meet the new state standards.
More than 100 people recently attended a meeting that was held to discuss the proposed consolidation of the Labadie, Gray Summit and Beauty View Acres sewer districts.
Kent Cunningham, secretary/treasurer of the Labadie Sewer District, said meeting the new state standards from the Missouri DNR is expected to cost about $2 million. That would cover $1 million in upgrades to the Labadie sewer treatment plant and $1 million for the new sewer collection system.
Regionalizing the sewer districts in the Labadie Creek Watershed would result in a smaller impact on ratepayers compared to what the cost would be if the districts took on the upgrades on their own, Cunningham said.
He said the districts are looking at a worst-case scenario of monthly sewer district bills being $50 after the improvements are made. Currently, the monthly bill for the Labadie district is about $30; Gray Summit, $30; and Beauty View Acres, $55.
Therefore, Beauty View Acres could actually see a bill reduction, Cunningham said.
Paying for the $2 million in upgrades would possibly be done with a low-interest loan through the state revolving fund and bonds through the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development division.
The goal is to be done with the construction before the end of 2015, said Dan Buescher, attorney for the Labadie Sewer District.
If the districts combine, they would all use the upgraded Labadie sewer treatment system, Buescher said.
It is more cost-effective for smaller sewer districts to take on the cost of the new permitting standards as a whole instead of individually, Cunningham said. The cost of the upgrades would be distributed across more people by combining the districts, he added.
The new regulations will require the three sewer districts to reduce ammonia levels by 10-to 60-fold, Cunningham said.
Meeting the new disinfection standards will require adding more complex facilities.
Cunningham said he thinks small-flow sewer districts across the state have been challenged with the new regulations. The purpose of the new rules is to ensure compliance with the federal Clean Water Act when treated wastewater is discharged into creeks and streams, Cunningham said.
He said he has not heard any opposition to combining the districts, and there will be more meetings.
At the meeting last week, 38 people signed a petition in support of combining the districts, Cunningham said. Buescher said a petition would show the circuit court that there is support for the idea when it comes time for approval.
Buescher said the districts plan to seek approval from a circuit court judge to consolidate.
There may be businesses that want to take part in the consolidation of the sewer districts as well, Cunningham said. There are eight sewer permit holders in the watershed, Cunningham added.
Bringing more entities into the consolidation would help meet the state DNR’s goal of reducing the number of permit holders statewide. Fewer permits in watersheds are more easily managed, Cunningham noted.
He hopes combining the districts can be done in the first quarter of 2014.
“I’m extremely pleased with each of the boards and our ability to work together very efficiently and effectively,” Cunningham said.
If there is a combined district, there will be a new sewer board as opposed to each district having its own board now. Board members are elected, and it can be difficult to find people to run for the seats, Buescher said.
The new district would also include some people who do not fall in a district now, Buescher said. The combined district would have a little more than 300 users, but one entity, such as a restaurant, could be considered several users based on its usage.