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Trafford property owners will pay more for sewage service

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 1:58 a.m.

Trafford property owners got hit with a dose of reality over the weekend when they received their quarterly sewer bills.

A federal Environmental Protection Agency mandate to upgrade and separate sanitary and storm sewers has ended the days of free maintenance service.

Sewer customers who historically have paid Allegheny County Sanitary Authority for only disposal and treatment of waste water have seen their bills nearly double in some cases to pay for upgrade of the sewage system.

A cost estimate on the project cannot be determined until the mapping and televising of the lines has been completed, said borough engineer Don Glenn.

For borough Administrator Lisa Mallik, the rate hike has meant a barrage of calls from residents angry or confused over their bills.

"It's been nonstop. This is the longest period without calls," she said Tuesday morning, just minutes after hanging up with yet another caller.

"I had a woman call me from California asking why she was getting a bill. She said she hadn't gotten one before because she didn't use any service."

Councilman Frank Bruno, who helped Mallik field some of the calls Friday, said people seemed surprised by the rate increase.

"A lot of people were calling in because they were confused. But this has been discussed for years. It should have been implemented sooner," he said.

Under the new billing rate, customer will pay $35.25 for a minimum usage of 6,000 gallons per quarter, which includes not only a consumption charge, but also a maintenance and service fee. For the average customer, this charge would be around $65.35.

Bruno said the rate increase will generate around $50,000 per quarter, or $200,000 in the first year.

Councilman Casey Shoub, who heads the health and sanitary committee, said yesterday that the borough debated sending notices to customers but decided it wasn't worth it.

"It would have cost $300, and the letters would have probably ended up in the landfill without even reading them," he said.

Property owners, Shoub said, also should realize the borough is not responsible for the rate increase.

"This is a federal mandate. And the rate is still not as high as other surrounding communities," he said.

For example, North Huntingdon Township Municipal Authority customers pay $31.55 per month for sewer service.

"When you compare our rate to other communities, we are still at the lower end," he said.

Shoub said the borough also has begun the preliminary upgrade work at no cost to taxpayers.

"We're getting $100,000 worth of mapping and televising work done without cost to the borough. We're using money from the Community Development Block Grant," he said.

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