The first increase in four years in rates charged by the Ottawa County regional water distribution system will go into effect Dec. 18.
The county commissioners approved increases in the monthly base and rate schedules during their Nov. 21 meeting.
Gino Monaco, administrator of the county’s sanitary engineering department, said several factors are behind the decision to increase rates.
“There are a number of issues and mandates, including microcystin and phytobacteria issues with the phosphorus out in the lake,” he said. ”The EPA has us doing additional testing and work to treat for those levels. The cross-connection and back-flow prevention program is also required by the EPA. If a home has an auxiliary well and the well is used to wash cars or water flowers, for example, there has to be a back-flow prevention device installed on the public water supply.”
There are also new regulations covering lead and copper levels, he said.
The last rate increase was in December, 2009. The base rate is increasing by 4.5 percent to $23 from $22 for the first 4,500 gallons. The rate usage schedule is also increasing by 4.5 percent.
Consumers will see the increase on their February 2014 bills.
The fee for turning on service due to non-payment or a violation is being increased to $50 effective Feb. 1, 2014.
Monaco said the department also plans to hike transfers from the operations fund to a reserve set aside for repairs and related costs.
“We’ve always had a repair and replacement reserve,” Monaco said. “For the first 13 years or so we transferred approximately $150,000 annually from operations to the repair and replacement reserve. We’re going to increase that to $240,000.”
According to the department’s 2012 annual report, the average annual residential water bill for users in the distribution system was $442 – about 13 percent below the state average.
Portions of seven townships are in the distribution system: Catawba Island, Danbury, Bay, Harris, Erie, Salem and Portage.