Increasing Sewer Rate Will Allow County to Meet Future Needs

A Special to the Braddock Beacon from County Staff at the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services

The County Executive has proposed increasing sewer rates from $4.50 to $5.27 per thousand gallons. The Board of Supervisors will act on this proposal concurrent with their action on the FY 2011 Advertised Budget. If approved, the new rates would become effective on July 1, 2010. County Staff recommends this increase to ensure continued compliance with environmental regulations, to reinvest in aging infrastructure, and to provide a high level of performance within a competitive rate.

Environmental Compliance:
New environmental rules to protect the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay are the main reason for the increase. Under these rules, all sewage treatment plants must reduce their discharge of nutrients, such as nitrogen, to the limit of technology. To comply with these rules, the County will need to install new nutrient reducing processes and equipment at its treatment plant by 2013, and pay its share to install new equipment at regional plants that treat sewage from County residents.

Infrastructure Reinvestment:
The County’s sewer system that collects and pumps wastewater (sewage) to treatment plants and its treatment plant facilities and equipment are aging. Many components have reached the end of their useful lives. Much of the County’s growth occurred post-WW II, into the 1950’s and 1960’s, and therefore much of the sewer system is 50-60 years old. If pipes and pump stations utilized to collect and transport the sewage are not replaced or rehabilitated, old sewer lines will eventually break, releasing raw sewage into rivers, streams, and backing it up into homes.

Back up of raw sewage into a home can be one of the worst nightmares a homeowner experiences. Such incidents can also result in the violation of federal regulations and adversely impact water quality. It will also have an adverse impact on public health, quality of life and safety. The rate increase is necessary to adequately cover the cost of replacing or rehabilitating this aging infrastructure.

Competitive Rates:
Because all sewer systems are experiencing the same challenges and rate increases, Fairfax County will still have one of the lowest rates in the D.C. region. The additional dollars will help continue to make the County’s wastewater treatment plant one of the best in the nation. The plant removes up to 99 to 99.5 percent of pollutants, and it meets 100 percent of federal pollution control standards. Most importantly, because we have continually maintained and reinvested in our system, we have one of the lowest sewer backup rates in the country at one of the lowest rates in this region.

Annual Bill Comparison to Neighboring Utilities

Additional information on the proposed sewer rates can be found online at:

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