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Union-Rome sewer rates go up this month

Union-Rome Sewer District customers, your rates are going up, compliments of the EPA, some fleas and flathead minnows.

The new rates took effect the beginning of March.

URSD manager Tim Porter said the additional money is needed to pay for $14 million in system improvements

that have been

mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. During the National Pollutant Discharge System permit process conducted in June, EPA officials noted that the system's current process did not remove ammonia from its

discharge. Ammonia is harmful to flathead minnows and water fleas that live in some area waterways.

"This isn't anything we want to do, but we have to," Porter said. "It's for sludge processing improvements. We haven't narrowed down what process we're going with. … The ammonia is what does it. Right now we can't remove it with the system we have."

For residential customers, the rate increase will add between $3 and $7 to their monthly sewer bill.

The EPA has also set requirements for the rate increases:

to borrow money from the EPA to help pay for these improvements, the sewer district must have an equal rate system.

The money from the rate increase will provide the 20 percent local match required for some state and federal grants. Porter said the district will also borrow money from the EPA to help pay for the work.

"It looks like we can get money at about two percent (interest)," Porter said. "I think we can probably get about a half to three-quarters of a million in grants."

Union-Rome customers have not had a rate increase since 1989.

E.L. Robinson

and Associates began work on the design phase of the improvement project three weeks ago. The design phase may take up to 15 months. The EPA has directed that the entire projected by completed within four years.