By Jaimie Julia Winters
While water rates stayed flat for 2018, sewer rates went up this year for Montclair households.
Residents recently received their annual sewer bill, with payments due June 30 and Dec. 1, and may have noticed the increase. The bill reflects two charges: capacity and treatment. The capacity charge, which is a set rate based on meter size, increased $50 for most homeowners in 2018, while treatment went from $10.98 to $11.65 a unit. In 2016, that rate was $9.53.
The treatment amount, noted on the bill in units, will vary based on household usage. The average household requires 20 to 25 units of treatment service a year. Twenty units of treatment equates to $233.
While the treatment rate is set by Passaic Valley, which does Montclair’s sewage treatment, capacity funds are taken in by the township for maintenance, upgrades and repairs of the sewer system.
Homes with a 5/8 X 3/4-inch meter were billed an annual capacity charge of $136.74 in 2017. The 3/4-inch meter size fee was $205.09 and the 1-inch was $342.08.
For 2018, those charges are $186.74, an increase of $50; $280.08, an increase of $74.99; and $467.17, an increase in $125.09, respectively. In 2019, these rates will increase $50 to $125, depending on size.
Most Montclair homes have a 5/8 X 3/4-sized meter, said Montclair Communications Director Katya Wowk, so the average total sewer bill is about $425 this year.
“The township has a fairly old infrastructure and repairs and upgrades needed to be done this year,” said Wowk. “The running of the utility and its maintenance is funded by the capacity fee.”
The town has spent over $1,453,103 in water and sewer capital improvements projects since 2015, according to a list of projects provided by the Department of Utilities. The current sewer lining project will cost approximately $2.3 million, while last year’s installation of carbon filters cost $400,000 just for the filters, said Wowk.
Why is my sewer bill higher?
Whenever water is used – not consumed – it goes down the drain and must be treated. Water usage goes hand in hand with how much water needs to be treated and that costs money. It is not unusual for sewer bills to be higher than water bills, according to energy consultant Sam Adjangba. Today’s strict federal standards means higher costs to filter and disinfect waste water to return it to the environment. Conserve on water usage and sewer bills will drop.
While water rates over the last three years saw slight increases, 2018 brought no increase.
Most residents pay $34 per period for water, paid four times a year. This rate, which saw a $1 hike each year from 2015 to 2017, includes 7,480 gallons of water. For each additional 748 gallons used, the residents pay a rate of $3.74 during January, February, March, October, November and December. From April through September the rate jumps to $4.49. Over the last three years that rate averaged an annual increase of about 11 cents during non-peak times and 31 cents during peak season on 748 gallons of water, but saw no increase in 2018.
Seniors can also apply for a 25 percent discount through the water department.
According to the U.S. Department of Interior, the average person uses 80 gallons of water a day, the average family of four 320 gallons. But that number could go up as much as a third in the hot summer months because of lawn irrigation, pools, fountains and more showers. Depending on water conservation, families could get by with the 7,480 gallons of water a quarter that Montclair bills at $34.
The town purchases about 5.7 million gallons a day from North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, according to Wowk. The town pays the utility – about $1,746,876 a year – and then bills the residents based on usage.
Toilet flushing uses the most water each day. Older toilets can use three and a half to five gallons of water with every flush. Federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons. With older toilets a brick in the tank is said to use up to half a gallon less for each flush. Baths use more gallons than showers, which use five gallons a minute. New shower heads and faucets are now made with low flow mechanisms, greatly reducing water flow while maintaining pressure.
Water and sewer treatment rates for 2019 rates have not been set.