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Some tweaks proposed as council formally backs large water rate hikes

Woolwich council’s discussion this week of water and sewer services didn’t touch on fees – large price hikes for 2012 remain in effect. Instead, Coun. Mark Bauman suggested a few tweaks and cost-saving measures.

Addressing the issue of fire hydrants, for example, he suggested the township look at incorporating water used in fire hydrants as part of the general levy, rather than including the cost in bills to users. Hydrants benefit more than just those customers on municipal services, he argued, noting water used fighting fires in rural areas often comes from hydrants used to refill the trucks.

“People on municipal water are subsidizing people in the outlying areas,” he said of those instances.

The change will be looked at by treasurer Richard Petherick, who suggested the matter may not be straightforward – some investigation is needed to determine if the move is cost-effective.

On the wastewater side, Bauman pushed for more measures to combat cases of inflow and infiltration (I&I) whereby runoff water from rain and melting snow ends up seeping into sanitary sewers. Efforts to combat I&I problems have been ongoing in Elmira since 1994 and in St. Jacobs since 1999, and have seen new pipes installed underground, rerouting storm water from home drains away from sanitary sewer lines. In some cases, leaky laterals were replaced. To date, tens of millions of dollars have been spent –half the tab picked up by Waterloo Region – to prevent storm water from being routed to the sewage plants, where it needlessly eats up treatment capacity.

In the last couple of years, the township has ruled out more large-scale I&I work, as well as a comprehensive sump pump program in Elmira, deeming all of it too costly for the potential returns.

Bauman, however, suggested going for the “low-hanging fruit,” including checking for sump pumps draining into the sanitary sewer system (via a laundry tub, for instance) and leaking manhole covers.

Coun. Allan Poffenroth endorsed that approach, calling for an inspection program to check up on individual homes.

“I think that would be prudent,” he said of such an undertaking.

This week’s meeting saw formal endorsement of a new rate structure for next year. Water customers will see a hike of 6.9 per cent, to $1.52 per cubic metre from $1.43 (a jump of $16 to $22 per year for an average household) and wastewater increases of 7.84 per cent, to $1.90 per cubic metre from $1.76 ($25 to $33 per year).

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