BRUNSWICK COUNTY – Brunswick County is preparing to finally make long-planned adjustments to its water rates.
The charge increases will help the county pay off its debt for the $156.8 million upgrades to the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. Starting in October 2022, the county must make annual payments averaging $8.4 million for the capital project. The improvements include an increase in capacity to 45 million gallons per day and the installation of a low-pressure reverse osmosis system to eliminate substantial levels of PFAS from the Cape Fear River-sourced water.
(PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals used in manufacturing and cannot be removed by the traditional water-treatment process. They became a big concern locally when the compound GenX was discovered in the water supply.)
However, there are other developments throughout the county that are driving the rate increase.
Soon the county’s largest wholesale water customer, Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO, will complete its own reverse osmosis plant and no longer need water treated by the county. That means a loss of revenue for the county.
Brunswick County will lose another large water customer when Capital Power, near Southport, shuts down in March. Also, the Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority — the county’s source for raw water — is proposing increased rates.
Brunswick’s remaining clients will have to make up for much of these anticipated revenue losses.
At the commissioners’ regular meeting last Tuesday, the county manager recommended changes to the water rate schedule.
The wholesale customers – a mix of mainly residential and commercial – would see their rates increase from $2.89 per 1,000 gallons to $5.25, a difference of $2.36. Plus, the base monthly service charge would increase by $4 per month for all meter sizes.
Retail and irrigation costs are proposed to increase roughly 68%. That means the average retail customer paying for 4,500 gallons would see the cost rise from $24.83 to $34.68, a $9.85 increase. A resident with an irrigation bill for 6,000 gallons would see a $14.40 difference, from a $20.80 bill to a $35.20 bill.
Industrial customers should expect to pay an additional $1.46 per 1,000 gallons if the increases are approved. Instead of $2.89, the county would charge $4.35.
The board would take action on these suggested changes as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget process this June. Approved adjustments would go into effect at the start of 2022.
“With the proposed changes, the county’s FY 2022 recommended rates would still remain lower or comparable with other retail water rates in other coastal North Carolina counties,” according to a news release from the county.
It would be one of the few times in 17-plus years that Brunswick County has adjusted its retail water rates. In FY 2015, the monthly retail base rate went up by a dollar; however, volumetric rates declined for retail customers by 90 cents in FY 2004 and FY 2020.
Correction: The story originally stated the Northwest Water Treatment Plant expansion would increase capacity by 45 million gallons per day. The plant is increasing its conventional treatment capacity from 24 million gallons per day to 45 million gallons per day.
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