City sewer fees set to increase 3 percent

By Larry Di Giovanni | May 21, 2014
Courtesy of: Terry Pinto, director, Rockland Pollution Control Facility Sewer fees for the city of Rockland show that its 10 industrial customers account for the majority of what is billed, at 62 percent.

Rockland — Rockland sewer fees for residential, commercial, and industrial ratepayers are set to increase 3 percent in 2014-2015, but the effect on residential customers will be marginal, said Terry Pinto, director of the city's Pollution Control Facility that handles wastewater treatment.

Currently, 2,205 single-unit residences see an average quarterly bill of $60.89. Single-unit customers, who use the minimum amount of wastewater will see their bills increase by 39 cents per quarter, which is $1.56 annually.

According to Pinto's budget report presented during the May 19 city budget meeting, nearly 57 percent of residential customers use the minimum amount of wastewater. Their quarterly bills will rise to $41.80 starting in July after 2014-2015 budget approval. The city also has 270 multiple unit residences, whose average quarterly bill is currently $180.28.

Of the city's $3.76 million in requested 2014-2015 sewer fund revenue, a total of $761,455, or 21 percent, comes from residential customers. Another $490,531, or 16 percent, comes from 471 commercial customers. Their average quarterly bill is currently $262.91 and is based on usage calculated as “equivalent daily units.”

Most commercial customers, 61 percent, use their assigned units or less each quarter. Their quarterly bills will increase from $89.12 to $91.80, according to Pinto's report.

The majority of the city's $3.76 million in requested sewer fund revenue — 62 percent, or $2.45 million — comes from industrial customers. One of them, seaweed processor FMC Corp., accounts for $2.1 million of that revenue, Pinto said. Processing seaweed into organic products such as food additives like chocolate milk, and for use in toothpaste, requires an exceptional amount of wastewater to be generated.

“(FMC) is the only plant of its kind in North America,” said Pinto, while adding that the plant also generates about half of the city's wastewater. The city presently does not separate wastewater from stormwater, and is in the process of determining how to fund a $1.4 million study that will evaluate the most effective way to achieve their separation.

Industrial customers will also see a small rate increase. Their wastewater fees are based on total wastewater flow, the amount of total suspended solids in wastewater, and the amount of Biochemical Oxygen Demand used to dissolve organic matter. For the past few years, the city's industrial customers have also paid a 1 percent chemical surcharge for the cost of treating sludge with ferric chloride.

The city's other industrial customers include Amalgamated Enterprises, the city's Solid Waste Facility, the town of Rockport,Samoset Resort, the town of Owls Head, Interstate Septic Systems, and 17 Merrill Drive LLC.

Pinto said the surcharge is necessary because industrial customers produce wastewater high in sulfur content, which makes sludge treatment necessary.

The city's 3 percent in sewer fee increases will cover increases in the cost of chemicals to treat wastewater, an increase in lab fees for wastewater testing, more paid for electricity, and other increases. The city's Wastewater Treatment Facility is located on Tillson Avenue.

Despite the increases, the city of Rockland still charges in the bottom 25 percent for wastewater rates among comparable-sized cities in Maine, Pinto said.

Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at ldigiovanni@villagesoup.com.

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Larry Di Giovanni
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Larry Di Giovanni, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is returning to his daily reporting roots in order to cover the city of Rockland for The Courier-Gazette. Originally from Athens, Ohio, his family includes one son, Tony.

Di Giovanni has covered news beats ranging from the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to the largest tribal government in the United States — the Navajo Nation. He has also worked as a writer in the public education and higher education fields. He's an animal enthusiast and loves dogs.

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