Utility bill higher than usual?

If you’ve noticed a higher total on your utility bill this month, it’s because of a sewer-rate increase that just went into effect. The amount raised by this increase is paying for a $4.3 million sewer project scheduled for this year. (In case you didn’t know, your sewer usage is charged based on your water usage.)

The purpose of this project, known as the Phase II Sewer Project, is to reduce sewage discharges into the river during heavy rain events. These discharges happen because Elkins stormwater and sewage have traditionally been carried in the same system of pipes, which can overflow during heavy rains. The Phase II Sewer Project will install several new dedicated stormwater lines to reduce the occurrence of such overflows. This project is proceeding under a federal consent decree between Elkins and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There is no other source for this money. Under state law, sewer and other utilities must be run as standalone businesses. Their only source of funding comes from the rates paid by their customers. In other words, sewer projects like this one can only be paid for by raising sewer rates (and especially not with sales tax proceeds).

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