Government

After Stumble, New Brunswick Looks to Raise Sewer Rates Tonight

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This stock photo shows a sewage treatment plant Credits: eutrophication&hypoxia/Flickr
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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Sewer rates have been slated to rise since the start of summer, but several administrative errors have blocked that from happening.

The New Brunswick City Council will look to change that tonight, Aug. 2, at its 5:30 p.m. meeting in City Hall. The panel is set to vote on an ordinance that would boost sewer rates for residents and businesses.

At first, city officials said, they bungled the math included in the original incarnation of the ordinance. That mistake meant, if it had been adopted, the document would've enshrined incorrect sewer rates for customers of the New Brunswick Water Utility.

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“They were inaccurate, and we had to correct them,” the city attorney, T.K. Shamy, said during a meeting last month.

No one was charged the faulty sewer rates, he said.

The original ordinance was meant to raise sewer rates for homes, commercial businesses and industrial companies by 5 percent come July 1, officials said.

Since then, however, the city has pushed back the effective date to Aug. 3—or tomorrow, the day after the ordinance's expected adoption. Indeed, the City Council approved a resolution to amend the introduced ordinance at its most recent meeting to reflect that change.

If the council votes to adopt the ordinance, sewer rates will incrementally rise over the next several years, according to the document.

The current charge for residential and commercial customers is $54.79 per 1,000 cubic feet, according to New Brunswick's city code.

That rate would climb to $57.53 tomorrow and then $60.41 in 2018, $63.43 in 2019 and $66.60 in 2020, according to the proposed ordinance.

That means the sewer rate would spike by 5 percent each year, through 2020.

Industrial rates will see similar increases, city officials have said. But those charges are broken down differently, based on the type of sewage, according to city code.

New Brunswick plans to hike sewer rates mid-year due to rising sewage treatment costs coming down to the water utility from the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, which handles the municipality's waste, City Administrator Thomas Loughlin III said in June. He said then that he city has deferred some bills from 2016 it owes to the authority.

The city's water utility has also begun to add 600 pounds of carbon to its raw water supply each day, in an effort to remove a chemical that's fighting an invasive weed. City officials have said that the carbon contributes to the sewage load.

Had the City Council adopted the original version of this ordinance, sewer rates would have dropped—at least on paper. That document called for a charge of $54.27 per 1,000 cubic feet this year, ultimately leading to $62.82 per 1,000 cubic feet by 2020.

New Brunswick also raised its water rates this summer.

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