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Stormwater Runoff Could Drive Sewer Rates Up For Some

Property owners with parking lots could pay more on their sewer bills.
Property owners with parking lots could pay more on their sewer bills.

Hamilton County commissioners are looking to change how the Metropolitan Sewer District charges customers. The idea is to include a charge based on how much rainwater and snow melt come off a property.

The Rate Affordability Task Force recommended making the change in a 2016 report, which pointed out 65 percent of what MSD treats is runoff.

MSD's Karen Ball says the idea is to be fair to all customers. "There would still be a metered bill, something that stays the course for that 35 percent. The impervious surface (charge) would literally look at how 65 percent of the flow is delivered to the treatment plants during wet weather," she told county commissioners.

Ball said having such a charge could give property owners a good financial reason to reduce their runoff, which would then reduce MSD's operational costs.

She said the utility would work with businesses and anyone else with a big parking lot. "The vision is always to have a bit of an incentive program associated with this change so that people might have some time in advance of the change to actually do something on their property that would relieve the stress on them and on the system."

County Administrator Jeff Aluotto said going from a rate schedule based on wastewater to one based on storm runoff would be a "seismic shift." He said creating a fair and equitable system that is phased in and allows for appeals will be difficult but will be better in the long run.

"There are some policy decisions that will be coming before the board fairly shortly on this… and then a discussion about how we want to move forward with the funding of the delineation work which could cost upwards of around one million dollars or so to fund that. I think it's money ultimately well spent if we get to the type of rate structure that we want that's more equitable based for the county," Aluotto said.  

Commissioners will look at the idea in the next few weeks.

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.