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Hefty sewer rate increases due in Monessen, Donora

| Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Work is still ongoing on a new three million gallon storage tank at the Mon Valley Sewage Authority's main plant at 20 S. Washington St., Carroll Township. The tank, shown here on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, will be used to decrease the amount the treatment plant discharges into the Monongahela River.

A steep rate hike is coming for the Mon Valley Sewage Authority's Donora and Monessen customers.

Authority general manager Tom Salak said his agency is implementing a 29½ percent increase due to a mandatory multimillion-dollar, long-term control plan project and the impending closure of the PolyOne plant in Donora.

The authority's minimum charge per quarter will jump from $88 to $114.

The new rates, which took effect Oct. 14, will be applied to the December bills of Monessen customers and the January bills of Donora customers.

Salak said the new monthly charge for Monessen residents will be $45, which includes a $7 sewage-line-usage fee.

Donora customers will pay $41 monthly, which includes a $3 sewage line-usage fee.

The sewage-line usage fees were imposed in 2008 by Donora and Monessen councils.

The municipalities own the sewer lines, and the money each community collects is used to maintain and repair the aging infrastructure.

The sewage authority system drains stormwater and treats sewage for about 2,000 customers in Donora and some 3,500 customers in Monessen.

The authority operates on an annual budget that totals approximately $4 million, of which about $2 million is used for operating expenses.

Both Salak and authority chairman Tony Menendez said the decision to raise rates was difficult.

“This was very hard for me, but we had no way of getting around it,” said Menendez, a former, 22-year Donora councilman.

Menendez said the authority engineers initially recommended a 36 percent rate hike.

“I said there was no way I would accept that,” Menendez said.

Salak said the authority will lose about $300,000 annually when PolyOne closes next year.

The plant is located in the Donora Industrial Park.

Menendez said the 29½ percent increase was the lowest the authority could go and still make payments on its outstanding debt and a new, $10 million bond.

Salak explained the $10 million bond was used for Phase I of the authority's long-term control plan to update its treatment systems.

The control plan grew from a 2008 agreement between the authority and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The authority has 12 years to complete the approximately $40 million three-phase plan.

Authority engineer Jason McBride, of Gannett Fleming Engineers in Pittsburgh, said Phase I started with upgrades of the authority's major pipes and pump stations to allow more flow at the waste water treatment plant at 20 S. Washington St., Carroll Township.

McBride said work on a new 3.6 million gallon storage tank at the treatment plant is nearly complete.

The new tank will be used to help decrease discharge into the Monongahela River.

Phase II will include the construction of sanitary and storm sewers in both communities and a satellite treatment facility off of Parente Boulevard in Monessen..

Phase III will comprise construction of three satellite facilities in Donora and upgrades to pipes that discharge into the river.

Salak said there will likely be another rate hike at the end of 2014, or early 2015, to offset costs for the final phases of the project.

Customers will soon receive a notice in the mail detailing the new rates and their various payment options.

Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or at swolford@tribweb.com.

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