Hearing on modest city sewer and water rate hike is July 2

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Columbia Falls city water and sewer rates are going up, but by a modest amount for the average homeowner.

The base rate for a 3/4-inch service water line, which is what a typical homeowner has, will rise $2 per month from $8.50 to $10.50.

Sewer rates for the average homeowner will rise $1.50 per month, with the base rate going from $7.35 per month to $8.85 per month.

Combined, the average homeowner will see a $3.50 per month rate increase. There is no additional increases to actual usage, just the base rate.

With sewer rates, residential single family customers are billed at the rate of one “equivalent dwelling unit.” All other customers, commercial, industrial, government, multi-family, are billed one EDU for every 50,000 gallons of metered water usage calculated annually. For example, a business with annual metered usage of 2 million gallons is equal to 40 EDUs.

Water rates are adjusted according to the size of the service line.

A 1-inch line, for example, will rise from $15.30 to $18.90. The rates go up from there, depending on the size of the water line. A 12-inch line will see the greatest increase, from $2,176 to $2,688.

The increases will pay for upgrades to the city’s sewer and water systems.

The city is planning an adding another well to its water system to meet growing demand. It will also look to plug a host of leaks — it loses about 45 percent of the water it pumps daily, or about 690,000 gallons.

All told, the upgrades will cost about $1.5 million.

The leaks could be dozens of small leaks or one or two big ones. It doesn’t take much of a hole to leak a lot of water. A quarter-inch hole in a pipe with 60 pounds of pressure per square inch will lose a whopping 14,932 gallons a day.

The sewer system also needs upgrades to meet growing demand as the city population tops 5,000 people.

The sewage plant upgrades will cost about $2.8 million in the next few years and will include new equipment and expansion at the sewage treatment plant.

Because the Flathead River is in nearly pristine condition, the city is held to a high standard by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous as well as metals into the river of its treated sewage.

A public hearing on the rate increases is July 2 at the city council chambers at City Hall. Interested persons may attend the hearing or submit written testimony mailed or delivered to City of Columbia Falls, City Clerk, 130 6th Street West, Columbia Falls, MT 59912 or by email: staalandb@cityofcolumbiafalls.com. For questions or further information regarding the hearing, contact City Manager Susan Nicosia at City Hall, (406) 892-4391 or email: nicosias@cityofcolumbiafalls.com.

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