Altoona will see sewer fees increase in 2014 - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Altoona will see sewer fees increase in 2014

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Altoona (WQOW) - Sewer bills are going up in one city, up by more than $200 a year. We spoke with an Altoona city official Friday to find out more.

It will be tougher to go with the flow next year in Altoona; homeowners and businesses will have to dig deeper because sewer rates are going up.

"Previously the city of Eau Claire charged the city of Altoona based on the amount of water sold, rather than the actual flow to the wastewater treatment plant," said Mike Golat, Altoona City Administrator.

Altoona sends its wastewater to Eau Claire's treatment plant. So the city of Eau Claire installed a meter at the Otter Creek Pump Station last year to find out if its billing was accurate.  Turns out, Eau Claire was selling itself short.

"We didn't really realize or predict the magnitude of how much more flow was going to Eau Claire from Altoona. And it really is about double what we sell our customers for water that is going to Eau Claire and being treated there," Golat explained.

That's why beginning with the first bill of 2014, Altoona residents will pay on average 30% more each quarter for sewer services. That adds up to about $240 more per year.

"It's going to be very hard to really kind of like pay for other bills that have to be paid for. Probably will have to go ahead and pay for it but I just wish it never happened," said Stacy Buckwheat, who lives in Altoona.

The city says there are many reasons the amount sent to the treatment plant is so much higher than what is sold to Altoona's customers.

"Leaky sewer mains, leaky manholes, direct connections to a storm sewer, or things like basement drains," Golat said.

Altoona has plans in place to pinpoint the problem.

"We've budgeted $75,000 next year for a comprehensive inflow and infiltration study next year that's intended to identify the sources of the water flowing into the sewer pipes that isn't coming from direct residential or business use," added Golat.

Part of the reason for the rate hike is also linked to the renovation at Eau Claire's water treatment plant. That project, with a price tag of about $50 million, is scheduled to be finished in 2015.

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