Peters Creek Sanitary Authority rates going up

Published Apr 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm (Updated Apr 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm)

Monica Merrell knows that, somehow, she and her husband will be able to pay the proposed average $20 monthly increase that will appear on the July 31 Peters Creek Sanitary Authority bill. It’s just the two of them, so the water consumption on which the bill is based is not extreme, and even though her husband is retired and she works as a consultant, the couple can manage an additional $20 or so a month.

However, Merrell, who is a member of the Peters Township Council as well as a PCSA customer, is concerned about other customers, mainly families with large households and those on fixed incomes.

The rate increase is the first since 2005, said Rick Kovach, PCSA manager.

PCSA, which covers the southeastern portion of Peters Township, a small portion of North Strabane Township, as well as Finleyville and Union and Nottingham townships, maintains the lines but does not treat any of the sewage. The waste water flows to Clairton, where it is treated by the Clairton Municipal Authority. But time has taken a huge toll on the CMA plant that discharges treated water into the Monongahela River, and the authority is under state mandate to build a new facility.

According to a letter Kovach sent to PCSA customers in mid-March, construction on the plant in Clairton is expected to begin in 2016 with completion in the spring of 2017. All authorities, including PCSA, that use CMA must share in the cost. A bond was issued to pay for construction and, according to Kovach, since 2012, the PCSA has been paying the additional bond debt amount from financial reserves. Now, the time has come when the authority must pass the costs on to the customers in the form of a rate increase.

“We tried to hold off as long as we could,” Kovach said about the soon-to-be higher bills.

A few years ago, the PCSA applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection to built its own treatment plant to service its 4,000 customers, both residential and commercial. But the DEP rejected the request, Kovach said.

The $20 increase is just an average. Each business and household bill will vary, based on usage. Currently, the rate is $6.25 per 1,000 gallons used. That will increase by 33 percent to $8.25 per 1,000 gallons, along with an increase to $20 for the minimum usage service. There will also be a $15 monthly dwelling unit charge that will go toward the PCSA’s share of the CMA bond debt.

Kovach, who has been the authority director for more than 11 years, said customers are welcome to call the PCSA with any questions or concerns at 724-348-6860.

The increase will not appear until the bill at the end of July.

“We wanted to (notify customers) enough ahead to give the people time to try and budget and prepare for this,” Kovach said.

Michael Silvestri, Peters Township manager, said the PCSA covers only a small portion of the township. However, that portion contains most of the remaining developable property in the township of more than 22,000 residents. The majority of the township is serviced by the Peters Township Sanitary Authority that has two treatments plants in the township and is not associated with the CMA or the PCSA.

The reason Peters Township is served by two municipal authorities is due to the placement of the watersheds and water flow direction, Silvestri said.

Merrell said there is nothing council can do to intervene in the rate increase.

“And I worry that you don’t have a choice. There are certain ways you can cut back, but,” she said as her voice trailed off. “The (PCSA’s) been tied to the Clairton authority for 30 years and there is no getting out of it. The township has no control. The problem being, the Clairton Municipal Authority is made up of people from Clairton, and we’re at the mercy of whatever decision they make. We have no authority to monitor anything. For the amount of money we are required to pay, I find that troubling.”

Monica Merrell’s husband, Bill Merrell, is a member of the Peters Township School Board and he, too, is concerned about the increase, not only for the higher rate for the Bower Hill Elementary School – the only one of the district’s five buildings served by the PCSA – but for the residents who are seeing increased prices for medical insurance, clothing, groceries, gasoline and, in all probability, school taxes.

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