Warm Springs PSD asks state to approve two-step sewer rate increase

by Kate Shunney

The Warm Springs Public Service District, operators of Morgan County’s central public sewer system, has asked state utility regulators to approve a two-step rate increase for their sewer customers.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission will consider letting the sewer system raise their rates twice – before and after completing a project to reduce excess water entering the wastewater system, and to upgrade the sewer plant.

Sewer officials for years have been looking at ways to protect the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant by reducing the amount of water getting into sewer lines and running through the system.

That extra water can come from the ground, surface water and even through the connection of gutters and storm drains into the sewer system.

The proposed project will involve “relining or removing and replacing existing sewer lines and branch lines and installing certain upgrades to the District’s Berkeley Springs wastewater treatment plant.”

Such work is expected to be funded through a $2.9 million Rural Development loan, a Rural Development grant for $1.35 million and a later grant for $580,000, according to a notice of filing in the case.

Sewer officials have asked the state to approve two rate increases.

The first – a 14% increase — would go into effect until “substantial completion” of the district’s 2023 “Inflow and Infiltration Correction Project.”

The second rate increase of 10% would go into effect after the project is completed.

For flat rate customers, estimated at 4,500 gallons of wastewater per month, that means monthly bills could rise from $56.11 per month to $63.96 and then to $70.35.

Metered residential customers, measured by their public water usage amounts, could see their rate for 3,000 gallons go from $38.22 per month to $43.56 per month and then to $45.01.

Metered commercial customers could see their rates for 12,700 gallons per month rise from around $145 to $165 and then to $181 per month, based on current rate schedules.

The rate hikes of 14% and then 10% would also affect metered public authority customers and would raise the flat rate paid by Berkeley Springs State Park.

According to the rate filing in state documents, the sewer system estimates the Step 1 increase of 14% will generate $155,660 – or 11.4% more revenue — per year.

The Step 2 increase is estimated to generate an additional $126,711 per year over the Step 1 increase.

In addition to the rate increase, the filing lists additional charges that could be in effect, including a $450 annual grease trap charge, tap fees and a surcharge for sewer customers who do not disconnect roof drains from the sanitary sewer system once they are notified to do so.

Any party who wants to intervene or file a protest in the case can do so by November 18. Requests to intervene or protests should include a brief statement of the reason for the protest. They can be addressed to: Karen Buckley, Executive Secretary, 201 Brooks Street, Post Office Box 812, Charleston, W.Va. 25323. Reference case number 23-0791-PSD-CN-42A.

A legal notice of the filing appears in this week’s Morgan Messenger.