Columbia residents aren’t the only ones who might be affected by expensive, but required, water and sewer system upgrades. West Columbia soon will undergo a rate study to determine how the city can manage its portion of $750 million in project costs.
Engineering consultant firm Black and Veatch recommended a 12.1 percent increase for Columbia’s water and wastewater services. The increased revenue will help the city pay for system improvements required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
West Columbia falls under the EPA requirements since its wastewater collection, up to 3.27 million gallons a day, is treated at Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant. Assistant City Manager Brian Carter said the city’s portion of wastewater system improvements currently amounts to $8.6 million.
American Engineering Consultants will conduct a water and sewer system financial feasibility report and rate study, which was approved Monday by West Columbia City Council. Carter said the reports will allow city officials to determine West Columbia’s “financial approach to the wastewater system upgrades.”
“It will give us a road map of what to do next,” he said.
American Engineering Consultants will bring back a recommendation to council on whether or not rates must increase to fund the required upgrades. City officials said it is too soon to tell how much the EPA requirements will impact customers directly.
City Council last adopted a rate increase in June 2014. A 15 percent increase was the first since 2010 and added approximately $5 to a customer’s bi-monthly bill.