East Richland raises sewer rates 26 percent

A 26-percent rate hike has hit the mailboxes of customers of the East Richland County Public Service District.

The spike translates into an additional $4 a month for 15,000 residential customers, who now will pay a flat rate of $19.

The increase was the first in six years for the special-purpose district, director Bill Long said.

It will generate an additional $1,235,000 a year, which will be poured back into the system, he said.

The new rates went into effect Oct. 1.

The district covers Forest Acres, extending north to Clemson Road and west to Farrow Road. The eastern boundary is Fort Jackson.

The 1,200 commercial customers of the special-purpose district were hit with a 26-percent increase, too, though most pay rates that vary by use.

Typically, sewer bills are based on the amount of water used in a household. Since the district doesn't provide water service, it charges customers a flat rate.

It is able to measure commercial use by getting water usage from the city of Columbia, Long said.

The utility's governing commission has asked him to explore whether it would be possible to measure usage for residential customers, Long said. He has no deadline to report back.

Despite the increase, customers of East Richland pay less than some of their neighbors served by the city of Columbia.

The average family of four living within the city of Columbia pays a sewer bill of $25.22 a month, while the same family living outside city limits pays $45.39, according to Dee Bennett, the city's engineering operations manager.

Long said the increase was necessary to keep up with rising costs. The cost of chemicals, for example, has gone up 172 percent in the past six years.

The district is phasing out four of its 18 pump stations, at a cost of $2 million, as part of a capital-improvement plan.