Paducah-McCracken sewer rates may go up

Sewer rates could go up some for Paducah and McCracken county customers in two months. Paducah McCracken county joint sewer agency or JSA’s executive director John Hodges says our systems are functional, but not all up to EPA standards.

“In Paducah the sanitary sewers range between 1897 and 1960…It’s like what you have with a car. You know a car that’s built in 1950s is not going to meet today’s emission standards,” Hodges said.

Hodges said JSA tries to focus on EPA updates that will also benefit Paducah like the Wallace Park Project. Last year, the street near Wallace Park, also known as Independence Park, was torn apart for updated sewer lines. Basically, sewage pipes from homes and pipes from a storm drain are now separate instead of combined together.

Homeowner Charlotte Angle moved to the neighborhood three months before construction started. She says that with a historical neighborhood comes historical plumbing. 

She says she appreciates the communication during the project. “Through letters and even personal contact at the front door, which that’s kind of interesting, you don’t necessarily expect that,” Angle said.

However, she also said, “It was really frustrating. I’m not going to lie. Many times we either had a hard time getting out of our driveway or into our driveway. Of course, you know, the dirt and debris, it was all over the place."

Projects like these go hand-in-hand with EPA requirements. It’s the main a reason for a possible increase in rates. JSA’s main income is customers.

“We’ve been very cost conscious. We wanted to check our staffing levels. We wanted to watch how we spend our pennies, but the work that we’re doing is just not elective,” Angle said.

JSA is asking to raise their rates for an average household by $3.60 a month this March and $7 by July of 2017. Rates are low now at 67 percent of the state average, and would go to 87 percent of the state average by 2017.

Hodges says maintenance at the treatment plants costs $40,000. This year they have to spend about $50,000 on roofing projects in addition to regular projects.

It costs a million dollars a year in maintenance outside the plant for the pumping station on lines. Of that cost, $800,000 is spent on renewing older sewer lines.

Hodges says sewer systems are most important during wet weather. Sewage lines can take in water by leakage or they could still be connected as part of the storm sewer. You want to be able to handle the capacity of the water to treat it. If the system can’t, that’s when you see extreme backing-up cases, like sewage water flooding into your home.

JSA has completed $38 million in improvement projects since 2008. 

The Paducah City Commission’s ordinance on the rates will have a second reading on Jan. 25 at a joint meeting with the McCracken County Fiscal Court.

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