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Estherville expected to raise sewer rates

Council to review proposal at Monday, Feb. 21 meeting

February 8, 2011
Estherville News

Due to rising operational and maintenance costs, the City of Estherville will need to raise sewer rates for the first time since 2003.

The proposed rates, if approved by the council, will increase to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the wastewater system. For residential and commercial customers the rate will increase from $2.80/CCF to $4.25/CCF (100 cubic feet) of water used. The minimum monthly billing will also increase $5. Rates for industrial customers are based on a combination of flow and attribute loadings as measured by monitoring samples.

City Administrator Penny Clayton said the Wastewater Treatment Plant has three basic missions including:

n To maintain the sanitary sewer collection system.

n To remove and stabilize the pollutants contained in the wastewater.

n To dispose of stabilized sewage solids in a safe manner to protect the public health.

"The caustic nature of the plant tends to cause fixtures, equipment, and the structure to deteriorate in a much faster manner than other types of facilities. We need to continuously maintain and improve our facility to avoid costly repairs later," she said.

Clayton added the system generally consists of 66 miles of underground sewer main, 4 lift stations, numerous manholes and a large mechanical plant. "Given the fact that we have a large mechanical plant and its corrosive atmosphere, two-thirds of our total budget is in operational and capital expenditures, whereas one-third is employee costs."

The plant has numerous pumps, motors and other mechanical equipment that uses quite a lot of electricity. "Our single largest operational expense, other than employee costs, is electricity. We continue to evaluate potential energy efficiency improvements and will make appropriate use of new technology as it becomes available and has proven results," Clayton added.

Other cost-saving measures have been in place over the years. "In 1979, there were 10 employees at the WWTP facility. Today we operate the same facility with seven. I believe the city is doing everything possible to maximize employee productivity while reducing costs."

A couple of additional governmental regulations that have increased our operational costs in recent years include regulations limiting the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of our Ag-gator that we use to spread sludge on farm land and regulations regarding the disinfection of wastewater effluent to protect organisms such as the water flea and fat head minnow. The disinfection facility was constructed at a cost of $500,000 and we will have to operate and maintain that facility in perpetuity. The restriction on GVW essentially doubles the amount of time necessary to dispose.



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