Big jump coming to Murrayites’ sewer billsFeb 22, 2022 09:36PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Costs for upgrading the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility have jumped from $250 million to $370 million. (Photo courtesy Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Murrayites can expect to see their monthly sewer bill increase due to the demands of new development and the implementation of costly regulations adopted by the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ). As a result, all customers of Murray City Water, Cottonwood Improvement District, and all residents in the central part of Salt Lake Valley can expect to see changes to their monthly wastewater bill.
Much of the increase comes from costs associated with the complete overhaul of the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility (CVWRF), a regional treatment plant that discharges treated water into Mill Creek and the Jordan River.
The improvements include replacing aging and degraded mechanical and electrical equipment in the treatment plant and rehabilitating the corroded collection system pipes. Changes are being made to meet the community’s future needs and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.
Costs for the complete renovation were initially pegged at $250 million. Plant stakeholders—which include Murray City Water and the Cottonwood Improvement District systems, South Salt Lake City, Mount Olympus Improvement District, Granger-Hunter Improvement District, Taylorsville-Bennion Improvement District, and Kearns Improvement District—planned to fund those improvements.
But more recently, the State of Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) adopted a new rule that requires wastewater facilities to install processes to remove phosphorus from effluent discharge. The DWQ has also lowered permitted levels of ammonia and several other pollutants in CVWRF’s effluent discharge. These new regulations, combined with the current construction climate, have caused costs to escalate to about $370 million.
“All of this is a big surprise,” Murray City Water Director Danny Astill told the Feb. 1 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Toxic algal blooms are driving the creation of regulations to control phosphorus emissions from wastewater discharges. Utah Lake and the Jordan River have been posted as not safe during recent outbreaks.
Murray City Water users can expect to see their monthly bills increase from around $12 to $28 per month, which will include a Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility (CVWRF) fee. The new CVWRF fee, which covers the upgrades to the facility, accounts for $12 of the total fee. Over time, that fee will decrease, but the annual base rate will increase incrementally to address growth issues.
“Starting in April 2022 this year, an increase of 20%, and then in April 2023, an increase of 3%, and that would again continue on in perpetuity,” Astill said. “Then there’s a new factor here, the Central Valley fee, that will help the city cover that initial cost, and it puts the weight of cost to where it really is coming from instead of increasing base rates to cover Central Valley’s cost.”
Projected growth in residential and commercial sewer connections is based on historical development in the city and has been estimated at a rate of 3% annually. It is expected that in 2022, the city will have 8,061 new residential sewer connections and 993 new commercial sewer connections, for a total of 9,054 connections. By 2027, the city anticipates 10,496 total connections—an increase of 1,442 connections, or average growth of about 297 each year.
Cottonwood Improvement District has not announced any changes to its fees yet. According to its 2022 budget information sheet, “A sewer rate study is currently underway by a consulting firm with results expected in early 2022.” Currently, the monthly fee for sewer service is $20 per residential equivalent unit for CID customers.
Given that a $120 million underestimate in no slight difference, Astill was asked if this was due to poor management at the facility.
“Everything was working really well until 2019, and that’s when things started to go a little awry with the work; but actually, it’s more in 2020 than anything. That’s when the bids really started coming in much higher. Most of the projects are coming in now about 30% higher than normal, and that’s why, if you look at the cost difference, it’s about 30% overall, and it’s not a laughing matter, and it hit us hard,” Astill said.
Murray City has an 8% stake in the CVWRF, while Cottonwood Improvement District’s Share of CVWRF operating costs as of August 2021 was approximately 16%. More information on CID’s rates can be found at www.cottonwoodimprovement.org.