If you’ve ever felt like you flushed money down the drain, well it’s now going to be even more costly. Faced with a looming $4.5 million upgrade to the municipal lagoon and waste-water treatment system, the Memphis City Council on Thursday night unanimously approved a significant sewer rate increase.
The council voted 4-0 to increase the minimum usage charge as well as the cost per hundred gallons for sewer service to take effect January 1st. Currently city sewer customers are paying a monthly $6.70 service charge in addition to $0.27 per 100 gallons of usage. Those rates will jump to a $12.65 service fee with a $0.435 rate per each 100 gallons of use.
Previously the average customer paid $18.58 a month for sewer services for 4,400 gallons of use. Under the new rates, that average cost will jump to $31.79, an increase of 58% .
The price hike came in well below a proposed cost of $57.87 for the average 4,400 gallons of use first suggested during preliminary hearings with the USDA regarding financing the city’s looming sewer upgrades.
Voters approved a $7.9 million levy proposal in April of 2016 authorizing the city to borrow funds up to that amount, leveraging future revenues for water and sewer services to pay for upgrades to the municipal water plant, sewer lines, water tower and lagoon. The issue passed with 76% of the vote.
The city is moving closer to transitioning the lagoon treatment process to a land-application system, which would apply the wastewater to agricultural ground, in an effort to meet growing environmental standards administered by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Part of that process included a recent land purchase adjacent to the lagoon, which will accommodate a large percentage of the proposed irrigation system.
City officials indicated the next step in the process will be improvements to the existing sewer lines in an effort to remedy storm water inflow, which could help reduce the scope of the land-application process by reducing the amount of water entering the system.
While the new rates go into effect at the first of the year, they won’t appear on consumers statements until the February billing cycle, which relates to January usage.