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New water and sewer fees could hit Harford residents, businesses

Harford County residents could pay a new fee toward the cost of installing nutrient removal processes at wastewater treatment plants, as well as see some other changes to water and sewer fees, if several bills introduced by the county council are approved.

The council introduced three bills on water and sewer issues, all of which will have public hearings at 6:30 p.m. on March 13.

They would provide for a new wholesale water rate, provide for capital reimbursement as part of the purchased water adjustment charge, establish new county water and sewer rates in general, set a new fee for nitrogen removal, set a new annual septic user charge and create the fee to recover the capital project costs of installing additional nutrient removal processes at some wastewater plants.

Joel Caudill, deputy director for the county's water and sewer division, said Wednesday that a new purchased water adjustment charge – the main part of the bill that will apply to all residents – will address the capital debt component that is not being captured in the current rate.

The bill would change the wholesale water rate from a total of $2.83 per thousand gallons to $4.72 per thousand gallons for capital recovery, to be adjusted annually, plus the water usage rate in effect at the time.

The purchased water adjustment rate would have a new formula that includes the unit cost for water purchased and the county's share of capital improvements to the Baltimore City water system.

Another bill would add an enhanced nutrient removal fee for the majority of sewer customers (except Spring Meadows, Swan Creek, Harford system and Whiteford/Cardiff customers who pay a quarterly usage charge).

The fee would be calculated based on an annual ENR debt payment to repay capital project costs at the Sod Run and Joppatowne wastewater treatment plants, an annual billable sewer usage amount, an ENR rate that shall not exceed 25 cents per 1,000 gallons and an ENR fee (the total amount billed based upon sewer usage).

The ENR fees will pay the principal and interest incurred by the county to build state-mandated ENR projects required at wastewater treatment plants.

The third bill will apply to industrial and commercial customers, and would add a nitrogen treatment fee of $427 per 1,000 pounds to their sewer costs. It would also add septage and commercial waste user charges starting at $30 per 1,000 gallons in fiscal year 2013 and increase that fee by $5 each year through at least 2015, factoring in an annual economic indicator adjustment after that.

The county also approved a bill last week addressing issues with water use in new construction, in accordance with new residential sprinkler legislation approved last year.

"That bill was meant only to address those issues with that particular issue," he said.

Under the legislation passed last week, base charges for water for a 5/8-inch residential meter connection will increase from $4.10 to $6.04 a quarter, with the usage rate per $1,000 gallons increasing from $1.65 to $2.43. The usage rate over 32,000 gallons a quarter will increase from $2.05 per 1,000 gallons to $3.04.

The base sewer quarterly charge for a residential 5/8-inch water meter will increase from $3.80 to $5.61, while the sewer usage rate per $1,000 gallons will increase from $2.10 to $3.09. The excess usage rate over 32,000 gallons will increase from $2.50 per 1,000 gallons to $3.69.

"Primarily that is going to be some of the private water companies and public water companies that buy water in builk from the county," Caudill said about the people this is likely to affect.

"Those that haven't paid capital connection charges for water capacity would pay this wholesale rate," he said.

Also, "there's any number of contractors that use water from the hydrants," he said. They would include entities like pool companies, which are "sort of a transient user."

A representative from Maryland American Water declined to comment.

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