County water bills may rise

  • Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A proposed $37 million expansion for the Lake Moultrie water treatment facility outside Moncks Corner could mean slightly higher water bills for residents for all of Berkeley County and Summerville starting as soon as 2016.

The last rate hike in Berkeley County was in the mid to late 1990s. How the rates will be adjusted is undetermined and will likely be ironed out this fiscal year.

The expansion would add a third and possibly a fourth water treatment train to the facility’s two trains. It’s the first expansion of the facility since it opened 20 years ago.

The expansion should allow growth in the area at least through 2026, according to Berkeley County Water and Sanitation Director of Operations Steve Hively. The treatment facility would go from 24 million gallons of water per day to 40 million gallons of water per day.

Phase I of the operation would be complete in 2017 for the project’s first 10 million gallons per day.

The cost to Berkeley County is estimated to be $1.6 million per year beginning in 2016.

But the expansion isn’t the only reason the agency is looking at adjusting rates in the county.

“It’s a normal process we go through all the time and, of course, any time you do a large expenditure like this that includes borrowing money, that’s a good time to do it,” Hively said.

Hively added that water use has also changed in the county — mostly decreasing.

He said part of that is due to the adequate rain falling the last year or so, and the other part is due to new, more water-efficient homes. So even though the county has more customers than ever, the agency’s budget is being stretched, he said.

In 2004, the facility avoided a costly expansion by increasing the number of gallons per square foot moving through its pipes.

But the measure only delayed the need for expansion.

Increased water treatment capacity was again a concern in 2007 as the county grew during the housing bubble. But the Great Recession bought the agency some time, according to Hively.

In 2011, with a drought striking much of the state, the county hit a “peak day,” meaning that if any more water was needed, the facility could not provide it.

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