Sewer Fee Increase
On Tuesday, March 17, 2015 LFUCG Urban County Council voted to approve the proposed sewer fee increase for FY 2016 & FY 2017.
While no one wants a sewer fee increase, we applaud council on taking responsible to action to ensure we have the funds to cover the estimated $700 million it will take to fix our sewer system and bring it into compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act standards.
Because of poor oversight and neglect over the course of decades, Lexington’s dilapidated sewer system has polluted our creeks and streams, caused property damage to neighborhoods, and jeopardized our quality of life and economy. Removing sewage from our stormwater and groundwater continues to be Lexington’s most pressing public health issue. From the downtown business owner, suburban dweller, and farmer…this countywide crisis affects all of us.
In 2006, LFUCG entered into a Consent Decree with the EPA to fix our sewer system. Original estimates totaled $300 million in improvements over the course of twelve years. After extensive research, modeling, and analysis, it is now estimated to cost at least $700 million to fix our sewers and bring it into compliance with Federal Clean Water Act standards.
Under the leadership of Charlie Martin, the LFUCG Division of Environmental Quality has done an outstanding job in orchestrating and managing the largest and most complex infrastructure project in Lexington’s history. To date, the city has spent $129,221,530 in implementing the requirements of the Consent Decree.
As a result, we are making progress. Through public private partnerships, LFUCG has removed over 50 million gallons of untreated sewage from our creeks since 2007. In addition, sound accounting and management protocols have cut costs by $60 million, and $152,800,850 in state grants have been raised to help finance the project. Thanks to these efficiencies, Lexington’s last sewer fee increase was in 2008.
Despite these strides, we have a long way to go. Over the next three years, it’s projected that Lexington will spend $265.5 million in sewer infrastructure improvements, with the construction of large sewage storage tanks being the primary driver of expenses.
The 12% sewer fee increase in FY 2016 and 2017 are needed to finance the Consent Decree mandates. If we fail to comply, Lexington will incur even more expensive fines and sanctions from the federal government moving forward.
While no one wants an increase in sewer fees, Lexington does not have a choice. We must get the job done. However, we do have a choice in how we move forward as a city, and learn from past mistakes. The careful oversight of development practices, the implementation of the Capacity Assurance program, good infrastructure design, and public education programs are important first steps in restoring Lexington’s water quality.
To learn more about this issue, check out Charlie Martin’s presentation to the Urban County Council and/or read our full position statement.