In response to your Jan. 21 editorial, I seek to clarify some points regarding Augusta's water and sewer rate structure as it pertains to recommendations contained in the special grand jury's Aug. 10 presentment.
Construction of Augusta's J.B. Messerly Wastewater Treatment Plant was funded primarily though the former Environment Protection Agency Grants Programs using federal funding. A requirement for receiving those federal funds was that rates for each class of user must be adequate to cover the cost of treatment. Consequently, industries pay a higher rate than residential customers, not the same rate as incorrectly stated in your editorial.
A capacity allowance was included in the planning and design of the current plant for industrial dischargers. Increased operations and maintenance costs related to higher than normal strength industrial waste have always been recovered through a sewer surcharge, in addition to the higher sewer rate, which charges industry according to the strength of their waste.
Some industrial dischargers have reached the point where they require additional treatment capacity, either by building on-site pre-treatment facilities, or by participating in the capital cost of constructing additional treatment capacity at the Messerly plant. In most cases, it will be more efficient and economical for industry to participate in capital improvements planned at the Messerly plant.
An appropriate capacity or impact fee for capital improvements planned at the Messerly plant is being developed by the Utilities Department in conjunction with OMI and CH2Mhill, as per the grand jury report. Money paid by industries for additional capacity at the Messerly plant will serve to reduce the amount of future bond issues, thereby reducing rate increases that will be required to service this debt.
The efforts now underway are consistent with the special grand jury's recommendations.
Ulmer Bridges, Augusta
(Editor's note: The author is a commissioner and is chairman of the Engineering Service Committee.)