Penn Hills residents to see small reduction in quarterly sewage bill
Penn Hills residents will save some money on their quarterly sewage service fee after the municipality decreased the bill by $5.
The municipality recently decided to reduce its sewage service fee from $30 to $25, which is billed quarterly. The savings amounts to $20 a year per ratepayer.
Manager Scott Andrejchak said there are around 17,377 residential sewage customers. He said the decrease amounts to nearly $350,000 per year not being collected by the municipality.
But that doesn’t mean the municipality’s sewer system will suffer or fall behind in maintenance or repair work, Andrejchak said.
“(Service fees) were bringing in more money that was actually being spent. This was a recognition that we could do two things at one time. This was about bringing relief to the ratepayer, it’s not a situation where we have to cut something else to make up for the loss,” he said.
The service fee increased from $15 to $30 per quarter in 2017, according to the municipality’s latest budget. Before the increase, Penn Hills’ sewage fund balance sat around $700,000. By the end of 2018, Andrejchak said the fund balance was $4.6 million.
The service fee pays for future and ongoing improvements to the sewage system, Andrejchak said.
The service fee is only one component to residents’ sewage bills.
Residential sewage rates ranged from $11 to $13 per 1,000 gallons used from 2010 to 2016. In 2017, the municipality’s rate jumped to $17.88 and now sits at $19.37. Those rates do not include Allegheny County Sanitary Authority’s yearly increases. That fee currently sits at $9.52 per 1,000 gallons used. In 2010, that number was $4.68. Penn Hills officials have no control over the rates charged by Alcosan.
According to Alcosan, the average customer uses approximately 13,000 gallons of water per quarter.
Officials have said Penn Hills’ rate increases were necessary after being mandated in the 1990s by the Environmental Protection Agency to pay for $100 million in repairs to its system, which includes 244 miles of sewage pipes, 12 pumping stations, seven equalization stations and two sewage treatment plants.
The mandate came after the municipality was cited for dumping raw sewage into the Allegheny River.
So far, Penn Hills has paid $36 million in repairs to its system, Councilman John Petrucci said.
“It’s down to $64 million – that’s how much we owe on the debt. In 2034, that’ll be paid off,” he said.
Petrucci said he was behind the municipality’s decision to decrease the service fee to $25 per quarter after requesting an “analysis of the sewage system in Penn Hills.”
The councilman, who is also running for mayor, hopes to hold a town hall meeting in the near future to discuss the sewage issue with residents but has not determined a date.
Penn Hills residents receive water and sewage bills from either Oakmont Water Authority or Penn Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority.
Oakmont Water Authority office manager Carrie Clark said the $5 reduction will appear on customers’ bills due by May 18.
The Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority did not respond to a request for comment, but Andrejchak said he is hopeful the authority will make the change to bills soon.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .