Changes In Your Water Bill
The City of Aurora recently added a $2.05 charge on water bills for the United States EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan Fee.
The federal government is requiring that Aurora make approximately $120 million in improvements to its municipal sewer system in order to decrease the number of combined sewer system overflows (CSO’s). The U.S. EPA has placed the financial burden of funding the improvements on taxpayers within the CSO communities across the nation. One hundred percent of the revenue generated from the $2.05 United States EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan Fee will be used to meet federal requirements.
While the City realizes that new fees in a tough economy are never easy to accept, the small amount being added to water bills pales in comparison to the millions in legal costs and fines that would result if Aurora did not comply with this federal mandate.
During large rainfalls when stormwater overwhelms the capacity of the pipes, combined sewer systems are designed to discharge the overflow into local waterways in order to minimize street flooding and basement back-ups. The overflow points are regulated and permitted through the United States Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Since 2005, Aurora has made nearly $50 million in improvements to the municipal sewer system. In addition, the City and Fox Metro Water Reclamation District has made another $150 million in improvements over the past three decades. These combined upgrades have greatly reduced the number of CSO’s from 1100 in 1983 to 198 in 2010. Unfortunately, these decreases are not enough to meet federally-mandated guidelines.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has mandated that all 775 communities that utilize combined sewer systems in the country develop and implement a long-term control plan (LTCP) to significantly reduce CSO’s into the nation’s waterways. Failure to do so will result in State or Federal enforcement actions including civil penalties and criminal sanctions that could run into the millions of dollars.
This bill also reflects a small increase in residential water rates. Since the late 1990’s, the City has increased water rates between 2% and 5% annually in order to avoid large increases that may occur on an unpredictable schedule like those that have taken place in several neighboring municipalities. The increase is necessary to cover operating costs for providing some of the safest, best-tasting water in the nation, and to maintain the city’s water distribution infrastructure.
Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan
- What is a Combined Sewer System?
- A Combined Sewer System is designed to transport both storm water and sanitary sewage within the same pipe.
- What is a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO)?
- During large rainfalls when stormwater overwhelms the capacity of the pipes, combined sewer systems are designed to discharge the overflow into rivers and lakes. The overflow points are regulated and permitted through the United States Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
- How many cities have Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO)?
- Combined Sewer Overflows are common among industrial cities that developed along the East Coast and Great Lakes regions in the mid 1800’s. Nationwide, there are approximately 775 CSO communities. According to the US EPA there are 108 combined sewer systems within Illinois. In addition to Aurora, the following Illinois cities have combined sewers: Chicago, Elgin, Evanston, Hinsdale, Joliet, Morris, Ottawa, Peoria, and Rock Island.
- Does Aurora have Combined Sewer Overflows?
- Yes. The City of Aurora has 16 permitted CSO’s. Fifteen discharge into the Fox River; one discharges into Indian Creek.
- What challenges do CSO communities face?
- During large rainfalls, combined sewer systems may become overwhelmed causing sewage to back up flooding streets and basements, as well as needing to be discharged into rivers and lakes.
- What has Aurora done to improve the Combined Sewer System and prevent sewer backups and overflows?
The City has made nearly $50 million in improvements since 2005. In conjunction with Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, the two agencies have made more than $200 million in improvements to the area’s combined sewer system in the last three decades, which has greatly reduced the number of CSO discharges.
- In 1983, the City experienced 1100 CSO discharges.
- In 2010, the City experienced 198 CSO discharges.
- Does anyone regulate Combined Sewer Overflows?
Yes. Combined Sewer Overflows are regulated and permitted through the United States Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
- Since its creation via the 1972 Clean Water Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has progressively increased the regulation of pollutants discharged into the nation’s water ways.
- In 1994, the US EPA published the CSO Control Policy.
- In 1997, an amendment to the US EPA CSO Control Policy was adopted that required all combined sewer communities within the nation to develop and implement a Long Term Control Plan (LTCP).
- What is a US EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan (LTCP)?
- The US EPA has mandated that every CSO community develop and implement a Long Term Control Plan in order to significantly reduce discharge into the nation’s water ways.
- Does Aurora have a US EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan (LTCP)?
Yes, the City of Aurora and Fox Metro were each required to submit Long Term Control Plans by April 1, 2010.
- On February 16, 2010, the City conducted a public meeting to discuss the recommendations of the LTCP.
- On March 26, 2010, the City submitted its LTCP; it is currently under review by both the US EPA and IL EPA.
- How was the US EPA Mandated LTCP developed?
In January 2008 the City retained Strand Associates, a nationally recognized expert in combined sewer systems to assist Aurora in preparing its LTCP. Development of the LTCP included the following activities:
- Creation of a 16 member citizen’s advisory committee to provide public input.
- Measurement of sewage flows within the sewer system & development of a computer model of the sewer system.
- Evaluation of dozens of alternatives to discharging into the river.
- Financial capability assessment.
- What improvements will be made as a result of the US EPA Mandated LTCP?
The plan recommends a number of improvements to reduce Combined Sewer Overflows including:
- Expanding the capacity of the combined sewer system.
- Modifying existing overflow structures.
- New permanent flow meters at certain CSO’s.
- Separating sewers through the installation of new storm sewers.
- Implementation of green infrastructure to remove stormwater from the system.
- Construction of a new CSO treatment facility on the City’s southwest side.
- Construction of a pump station on the City’s southeast side.
- When fully implemented what will be the impact of the US EPA Mandated LTCP?
- Implementation of the city’s plan will result in fewer basement backups and treatment or elimination of 85% of the combined sewage overflows caused by rainfall on an annual average basis.
- How long does the City have to make the LTCP improvements?
- The city has requested the longest implementation schedule typically allowed by the US EPA - 20 years.
- How much will the US EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan cost and who is responsible for paying?
The US EPA has placed the financial burden of funding LTCP’s on taxpayers within the CSO communities.
- The total cost of LTCP improvements for the City of Aurora and Fox Metro are estimated at $325 Million.
- The City’s LTCP improvements are estimated to cost $120 Million.
- Under the US EPA guidelines, CSO communities should spend approximately 2% of the combined Median Household Income on sewer services.
- How much will Aurora citizens be charged for the US EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan?
- A $2.05 US EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan Fee will be added to each bi-monthly water bill ($1.025 per month).
- Can the City delay implementation of the US EPA Mandated Long Term Control Plan until better economic times?
No. Failure to implement the LTCP will result in State or Federal enforcement actions, civil penalties, and or criminal sanctions.
Aurora would face permit violations which carry fines of $25,000 to $37,500 per day and would be subject to a costly legal battle.
- Evansville, IN — Refusal to cooperate with the US EPA resulted in a lawsuit by the Department of Justice leading to $500 million in costs including $490,000 in penalties and an additional $4 million in environmental projects.
- Akron, OH — Refusal to cooperate with the US EPA resulted in a lawsuit. The settlement requires the development and implementation of a LTCP, plus $500,000 in penalties.
- Scranton, PA — Was sued for failure to submit a LTCP. The lawsuit is ongoing.