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Proposed sewer rate kept below projections with $1.9 million in new operating efficiencies

Summary

Nearly $2 million in new operating efficiencies will help keep the region’s wholesale sewer rate within budgetary projections, under a two-year rate proposal sent this week to the Metropolitan King County Council.

Story

Nearly $2 million in new operating efficiencies will help keep the region’s wholesale sewer rate within budgetary projections, under a two-year rate proposal sent this week to the Metropolitan King County Council.

“Through continuous improvement and prudent management, this proposal would keep the rate three cents below projections, while paying for the needed wastewater facilities that protect our environment, support economic growth, and maintain our region’s high quality of life,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Under the two-year proposal, the County’s monthly wholesale sewer rate for 2013 would be set at $39.85 per month through the end of 2014, an annual average increase of 5.2 percent over the current monthly rate of $36.10 adopted by the Council in 2011.

The proposed rate for 2013-2014 is less than what was adopted in the 2012 County budget. The actual amount that ratepayers see on their monthly bills is set by the 34 cities and sewer districts that buy wastewater treatment services from the County.

Under the long-standing principle that “growth pays for growth,” the capacity charge for new sewer hookups is proposed to increase by 3 percent as planned to cover inflation, from $51.95 to $53.50 per month. The capacity charge on new customers will cover costs to expand the system and build new facilities needed to support population growth.

Construction of those and other needed system improvements under this proposal is expected to generate about 1,100 full and part-time jobs, with earnings in excess of $58 million.

A large portion of the sewer rate proposal is devoted to repaying money borrowed over the past decade to fund some of the most complex projects since the utility was established in the 1950s, including the $1.8 billion Brightwater project. The proposed rate also sustains the County’s water-quality monitoring program end ensures that the region is well-positioned to address emerging threats to Puget Sound.

To help keep the two-year rate below projections, the County’s Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) has committed to identify and implement $1.9 million in new efficiencies as part of the Executive’s continuous improvement initiative, including:

  • More efficient use of energy at Brightwater;
  • Use of Electronic Records Management systems for more efficient archiving and retrieval of files; and
  • Streamlining of operating procedures and further implementation of Maintenance Best Practices.

To date the savings have helped offset impacts from operational increases in other areas, such as higher prices for the chemicals used to treat wastewater.
 
Through careful planning and deployment, the County is already operating the new state-of-the art Brightwater Treatment Plan with no additional staff – in essence operating three wastewater plants with the same number of staff it took to operate two.

The County’s regional clean-water facilities serve more than 1.5 million people over a 420-square-mile area. The rate proposal would ensure the County can continue to meet state and federal environmental standards while protecting its strong credit ratings that were reaffirmed last month by Moody’s Investor’s Services and Standard & Poor’s.

Contractual obligations with the cities require the King County Council to adopt the 2013-2014 sewer rate by the end of June.

Read the Ratepayer Report Newsletter from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division at: http://www.kingcounty.gov/ratepayerreport

People enjoy clean water and a healthy environment because of King County's wastewater treatment program. The county’s Wastewater Treatment Division protects public health and water quality by serving 17 cities, 17 local sewer districts and more than 1.5 million residents in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Note to editors and reporters: Visit the WTD Newsroom, a portal to information for the news media about the Wastewater Treatment Division, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/wtd/Newsroom.aspx.

Related information

Rate Payer Report

King County Wastewater Treatment