Toledo residents will see a 52-percent increase in the cost of sewer service over the next six years following action on Tuesday by Toledo City Council.
City council adopted the sewer-rate increases Tuesday on an 11-1 vote to keep up the pace of work on the Toledo Waterways Initiative, the $521 million program of sewer repairs required by a consent decree with the federal government.
The rate increase allowed council to start committing the funds to design and construct the single biggest project that will occur under that sewer-reconstruction plan, an $88.2-million water storage facility to keep sewage-tainted storm water from overflowing into the Ottawa River. The city’s deadline to commit to start the project is Sept. 4.
The rate increase calls for hikes of 7.1 percent each year through 2019, and a 7.9 percent increase in 2020. The first annual increase takes effect Jan. 1.
For the average family, that will mean a rise in the quarterly bill from $150.05 today to $228.14 in 2020, which is close to quadruple the typical $61.84 quarterly sewer bill the city charged in 2003 when the program started. The average consumer is defined as those who produce 3,000 cubic feet of sewage per quarter, typical for a family of four.
■2015-19: 7.1 percent for each of five years
■2020: 7.9 percent
■Average new bill for family of four: $228.14 per quarter, up from $150.05.
■Required for upgrades to city sewer collection system
“It gets us through the final phase of Toledo Waterways Initiative, and we’ll be able to meet all of our timelines,” said Mayor D. Michael Collins after the vote. “It will put us in a situation that we will have a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility to deal with both sanitary sewer and storm sewer.”
He said the city could face a contempt of court order in federal court if it failed to fund the projects required by the consent decree.
In 2002, the city entered into a consent decree to end an 11-year-old lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the city’s failure to treat millions of gallons of raw sewage that was overflowing into the Ottawa and Maumee rivers. The overflows happened, and still occur, largely during heavy rain when storm water mixes with sanitary sewage, then overwhelms the Bay View Wastewater Treatment Plant on Summit Street in North Toledo.
The one “no” vote was cast by Councilman Steven Steel, who said his confidence in the Department of Public Utilities has been undermined by its failure to provide him with a staff organizational chart. Chief of Staff Robert Reinbolt said the chart would be provided to council today.
Also by 11-1 vote, with Mr. Steel voting no, council authorized a $300,000 expenditure for design work on the Ottawa River storage plant to be installed under Joe E. Brown Park on Manhattan Boulevard. The facility temporarily will hold up to 36 million gallons of mixed storm water and sewage to keep it out of the river, allowing the city to lift a do-not-touch order on river water. It is also expected to relieve area basement flooding.
The Ottawa River storage facility is to be followed by a storage facility downtown, a storage pipeline in International Park, and an extension of the Swan Creek tunnel, said Edward Moore, the city’s director of public utilities.
Under the Toledo Wastewater Initiative the city has increased its daily treatment capacity from 195 million gallons to 400 million gallons, built new sewer mains to allow the old sewers to be used strictly for storm drainage, and is building large underground lagoons that regulate sewer flow so storm peaks don’t overload the plant. The goal is to eliminate 650 million gallons a year of raw or partially treated sewage discharges into the Maumee and Ottawa rivers and Swan Creek, or 80 percent of such discharges from the city sewer system.
In other action Tuesday, council:
● Approved the purchase of a house at 722 Collins Park Ave. and an adjacent parcel on Koester Street for an expansion of the Collins Park treatment plant.
● Rejected a citizen initiative ordinance to lower criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
● Voted 7-5 to delay action on Mayor Collins’ proposal to raise pay for the city’s exempt staff.
● Delayed action on a $175,000 contribution to pay for a study on converting Toledo’s water treatment and distribution system to a county entity.