Prince George’s, Montgomery counties OK new WSSC budget; rates tick up

The Montgomery County Council and Prince George’s County Council gave the green light to WSSC Water’s new $1.556 billion budget Thursday, which includes a small increase in rates for residents.

WSSC Water said in a statement that the new budget will allow it to upgrade infrastructure in both counties. The utility has nearly 5,844 miles of water pipes and more than 5,610 miles of sewer lines.

“This budget invests in key upgrades to our plants, pipes and pumps to protect public health while enhancing our financial assistance programs to help more customers in need,” WSSC Water General Manager and CEO Carla A. Reid said.

“Investing in these infrastructure upgrades also creates jobs and fosters economic development in both counties. I thank both county councils for their commitment to public health and water affordability in approving this budget.”

WSSC said the highlights of the budget are:

  • $83.6 million to replace approximately 31 miles of small diameter water mains;
  • $61.7 million for large diameter water mains and large valve rehabilitation, including replacement of 6.5 miles of large diameter water mains;
  • $71.1 million to rehabilitate approximately 31 miles of small diameter sewer mains and lateral lines, which is partially funded by state grants from the Bay Restoration Fund;
  • $58.6 million to rehabilitate 14.4 miles of large and small diameter sewer mains in environmentally sensitive areas;
  • $97.9 million for construction of the Piscataway Bioenergy Project using low-interest loans from the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Water Quality Financing Administration;
  • $21.1 million to continue planned upgrades to the Potomac and Patuxent Water Filtration Plants;
  • $20 million to upgrade/replace five wastewater pumping stations; and
  • $3.6 million to continue upgrades to more energy efficient equipment and systems.

Included in the budget is a 5.9% average rate increase. WSSC Water said that means “a typical customer with a family of three, using 55 gallons of water per person, per day, would see a quarterly increase of $11.83 in their bill.”

In addition, WSSC Water said late fees for customers behind on their bills are set to resume June 1, unless you’re enrolled in its assistance program, which waives up to $43 per quarter or $172 per year.

Payment plans also are available. Residents can call 301-206-4001, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. to talk to an adviser.

WSSC Water, which provides service to 1.8 million residents in the two counties, said it’s seeing a 74% increase in the amount of money owed by residents since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“As of May 12, 2021, more than $63 million is past due (approximately 89,000 accounts) compared to $36 million past due (about 73,000 accounts) at the end of February 2020,” said.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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