WSSC considers water rate changes

WASHINGTON – A local utility is proposing major changes to how it charges its more than 1.5 million customers for water.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission wants to make less of a customer’s bill dependent on by-the-gallon usage.

“It’s a recognition that before the first drop of water gets to one of our customers, we have to get the water there. Whether you’re using 1 gallon or 1,000 gallons, we have to get it there through our pipe system. And likewise we need to take it away through the sewer pipes,” says Chris Cullinan, acting chief financial officer for WSSC.

Cullinan says a graduated fee structure based on the size of meters is more equitable than charging by the gallon. Customers with the same size meter would pay the same fee. Smaller, neighborhood-sized meters, for example, would be charged less than larger, industrial-sized meters.

Proposed changes also would re-calibrate each customer’s account maintenance fee, which hasn’t changed in 25 years.

“Any new fees, any changes to the fees and changes to the rates will go through our regular budget process culminating in their adoption in the spring of next year and would not go into effect until July 2015,” Cullinan says.

Public meetings on the proposed changes are scheduled in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties:

  • 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 6 at the Stella B. Werner Building, 7th Floor Council Hearing Room, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850
  • 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 12 at the Prince George’s County RMS Building, Room 308, 1400 McCormick Drive, Largo, MD 20774

Customers who’d like to speak at the meetings should call 301-206-8110 before the day of the meeting.

Written statements to be added to the public record can be sent to BudgetGroup@wsscwater.com or mailed to Letitia Carolina-Powell, Acting Budget Group Leader, WSSC, 14501 Sweitzer Lane, Laurel, MD 20707.

WSSC is looking for ways to stabilize revenue sources that aren’t dependent on water by the gallon rates.

Financial demands on WSSC are mounting as the utility grapples with an aging pipe system. Nearly one-fourth of the system is more than 50 years old.

WSSC also is among water systems nationwide now dealing with a type of pipe that is vulnerable to failure. WSSC has 145 miles of this pipe, called prestr essed concrete cylinder pipe.

Editor’s note: Changes have been made to this story regarding details about charging by the gallon.

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