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Posted on: March 5, 2020

Wastewater rate study indicates need for increase

In late 2019, City Council members reviewed a recent rate study for the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The study indicated the need for a rate increase in an effort to keep pace with the cost of the wastewater service for all customers on the City’s sewer service. The rate increase recommended is an average of 5% for the next five years. The study showed that various national indexes report an average increase of 5% to 6% annually for wastewater services.

“This rate increase is based on the cost of doing business for the City’s sanitary sewer system,” said Public Works Director David Hertzberg. “As a service regulated by Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the City is required to meet specific standards. There are repairs, as well as upgrades, that are necessary throughout the year in order to keep the system operating within these standards.”

Hertzberg noted that Joplin’s mining history has impacted the area, causing the City to take extra measures to provide a cleaner output. “We’ve recently installed new equipment and repaired lines to reduce the amount of zinc and cadmium in the water released back into the streams,”

The sewer fund covers costs of the additional equipment needed for this, as well as emergencies for equipment failures and other repairs to the sanitary sewer system throughout the City. Joplin provides wastewater treatment to all residents along with several other neighboring communities and 29 industries. Customers outside of Joplin pay a 30% surcharge in addition to the in-city rates.

“It’s a large system that operates 24/7, 365 days a year with more than 420 miles of sewer pipe” said Hertzberg. “It’s necessary to have resources to address any type of interruption of service.” 

The study was conducted by Burns & McDonnell engineering firm from Kansas City, Mo. It showed that the average residential bill was $41.91 per month and would move to $43.99 monthly in 2020. The rate change starts April 1, 2020.

During the past few years, the City has been identifying infiltration and inflow into the sanitary sewer system and working with sewer contractors to identify these gaps in both city and residential lines. Breaks in the lines and uncapped pipes allow stormwater into the system and increases the amount of water being treated by the system.

“It is much more efficient to eliminate unnecessary stormwater flow into the treatment process, so the wastewater plant is not treating non-sanitary sewer waste,” said Hertzberg.  

Wastewater rates are based on a volume charge per 1,000 gallons, and the size of the customer’s meter. The average residential customer in Joplin has a five-eighths inch meter and uses approximately 5,000 gallons per month. The City reduced this average figure from 6,000 gallons to the actual average of the system for the previous year after reviewing the recent study results. The meter charge is based on the water meter size at each location.  Volume rates are based on customers’ water usage of the three coldest months of the year, December through February. The City has an independent wastewater rate study completed every five years for the wastewater utility. The study provides real-time data to determine the cost of providing wastewater services by reviewing the volumes of wastewater being treated and the operation and maintenance costs of the City’s two treatment plants.

The Shoal Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility and the Turkey Creek facility treat a combined average of 15 million gallons of wastewater each day, prior to discharging into their respective streams.  Wastewater treatment is essential for the protection of public health and the water quality of streams, lakes and rivers in Missouri and the nation.

For more information about wastewater rates, please contact the Finance Department at 417-627-2955.

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