Northern Kentucky’s residential wastewater and stormwater rates may be increasing with a restructure outlined at county fiscal court meetings this month, but Sanitation District No. 1 Executive Director Adam Chaney assured Boone County’s Fiscal Court Tuesday that it would be beneficial to the community in the long run.
SD1, as the organization is known locally, provides wastewater and stormwater services to Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.
The rate restructure would require no more than a 5% rate increase year-over-year through 2027. The minimum residential charge, Chaney said at Tuesday’s meeting, will not be raised by more than $5 a month for any residential class.
The fiscal court unanimously approved the plan Tuesday.
The vote effectively means the plan is approved, since Campbell County also approved it at their Feb. 1 fiscal court meeting. Two of three counties must approve the rate increase in order for it to be put in place. But Chaney said Kenton County has not yet heard the presentation, so the approval will not be official until after that presentation, which he expects will happen in March.
“Before 2019, the rate structure didn’t align with the cost of providing service with our revenue structure,” Chaney said. “And on top of that we had a sustained decline in consumption, which created a situation where we were constantly having to raise rates in order to make up for consumption.”
The result was that a sustained decline in consumption – caused by things like newer toilets that use less water – led to what Chaney called a threat to SD1’s long-term revenues. That led to the need to increase rates each year by the amount of decline.
Chaney did emphasize that anyone who has trouble paying their SD1 bill can access several programs to help.
“I am supporting the SD1 rate restructuring because the organization does a good job serving the people, businesses and communities of Boone County and the service they provide is crucial to the success of not only our community, but our entire region,” Commissioner Jesse Brewer told LINK nky at the meeting.
Commissioner Chet Hand suggested a restructuring of SD1’s board to give Boone County more representation. Currently, Kenton has four representatives on the board, Campbell has two and Boone has two.
The change is something that would need to be fixed at the legislative level, which Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore said he supports.
“We’ve reached the point that Boone County is large enough,” Moore said. “The equity needs to be there on the board appointment.”
“Moving forward, I do favor a restructuring of the SD1 board to give our ratepayers more of a voice in the decisions being made that impact the county,” Brewer said. “Boone County has grown substantially since the SD1 board was formed, and the time has come for equity and input from our ratepayers.”
Hand asked Chaney at Tuesday’s meeting if it is still possible that residents will see more than a $5 increase monthly; Chaney said that wouldn’t happen unless that resident used more water than they normally do.
Chaney also talked about recent efforts to mitigate sewage overflow in the region.
Part of those efforts is the Clean H2040 project, which consists of equalization tanks to help eliminate sewage overflow. The first tanks built by SD1 are along Route 8 in Silver Grove; the other is in Wilder near Fredricks Landing. SD1 is working with the state and the United States Environmental Protection Agency on H2040.
The region has two types of sewer systems: combined and separated.
SD1 describes the combined sewer system as “wastewater from homes and businesses that go through the same pipes as stormwater runoff to a treatment plant.” In the separated sanitary system, “wastewater and stormwater are carried in different pipes to different destinations, wastewater goes to a treatment plant, and stormwater goes to the nearest body of water.”
A sewer overflow occurs when the wastewater leaves the sewer system before reaching the treatment plant. Overflow is typically caused by excessive rain that overwhelms the system.
According to SD1, 1.5 billion gallons of combined system overflow are experienced in Northern Kentucky each year, and 115 million gallons of sanitary sewer overflow are experienced every year. SD1 is planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in public sewer infrastructure over 20 years because overflows can cause public health, safety, and environmental problems.
“Given all the pressures of complying with federal regulation, we also have a concern locally with growth and many of the projects you’re paying those hundreds of millions of dollars for can do double duty as compliance projects but also to foster or enable growth to take place,” said Campbell County Judge/Executive Steve Pendery at the Feb. 1 meeting.
Chaney emphasized how well he thinks SD1 and the counties have worked together.
“SD1’s partnership with all three judge executives I think has been excellent,” Chaney said.
Campbell County Reporter Haley Parnell contributed to this report.