WSSC chief: Rate increase will go to fix aging system

WASHINGTON — Nearly 2 million residents of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are about to see their water bills go up, and the leader of one of the area’s biggest utilities says it’s all about fixing the infrastructure.

Carla Reid, general manager and CEO of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, told WTOP on Friday morning that the increase, which goes into effect Friday, amounts to about $3.28 per month for the average household — a $6-per-quarter Infrastructure Investment Fee and a 3 percent rate increase.

The commission faces “quite a conundrum,” Reid said: People in the area are conserving water, and that means revenue is down, even as the need for infrastructure stays the same.

“People are using much less, and we still have the bills to pay,” Reid said.

She said the money raised from the increase will go to fixing up the aging infrastructure and sewer system, as well as “all the tools and chemicals we need to run our business.”

Reid said in a letter to customers that of the WSSC’s 11,000 miles of water and sewer mains, about 37 percent is 50 years older or more. And of those thousands of miles, WSSC only gets to about 60 miles a year.

While further usage rate increases have not been ruled out for the coming years, Reid is giving her assurances that the new quarterly fee will not be rising.

“I can say that our Infrastructure Investment Fee is not going to go up in the next few fiscal years. It’s good until fiscal year ’20,” she said.

At that rate, Reid acknowledges, “We’re never going to catch up,” but says that technology can help close the gap and “make a good dent in it.”

For one thing, new pipes will be replaced by zinc alloys, “and we know that lasts longer than ductile iron pipes.” And fixing and maintaining other parts of the infrastructure, such as valves, can make shutdowns and repairs go more quickly.

“I think that those strategies are going to put us ahead of the game.”

WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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