State College Borough Water Authority customers can expect a rate increase in April as the authority prepares for two facility upgrade projects.
The first is a new filtration plant at the Nixon/Kocher wellfields in Ferguson Township and the other is an update to the Woodside Drive filtration plant in College Township.
“We’re trying to be as proactive as we can ... and provide excellent water quality to our customers,” said John Lichman, the water authority’s executive director.
The cost of the two projects is estimated at $40 million, according to the water authority’s winter newsletter. The authority plans to finance the projects by using reserve funds, a construction loan and a bond issue.
According to the newsletter, the authority will continue to invest in maintenance of existing infrastructure. It spends about $2 million annually on system improvements, which currently represents about 30 percent of its budget.
Starting in April, the usage rate for customers will be $4.40 per 1,000 gallons of water used, as well as the monthly meter capacity charge, according to the newsletter.
For meter sizes of 5/8-inch, 3/4-inch and 1 inch, the monthly charge will be $4, according to the newsletter. For 1 1/2- to 2-inch meters, it will be $6; for 3- to 4-inch meters, it will be $8; and for 6-inch and larger meters, it will be $10.
“If you don’t raise your rates and your infrastructure’s crumbling, then you’re going to have a problem. It could be called Flint, Mich.,” Lichman said. “You want to have your water rates go up, and, of course, while they’re going up you want to see that your infrastructure is being improved. And this is definitely a huge improvement when we’re talking about sand filtration versus membrane filtration.”
A pilot study was successfully conducted last year at the Nixon/Kocher wellfields “to evaluate a micro-membrane and granular activated carbon filtration system,” according to the newsletter.
The authority is in the process of getting all the required permits for the project and finishing the design, Lichman said. A construction timeline hasn’t yet been set.
The authority is looking to have a similar study conducted for the same filtration process at the Woodside plant.
But work wouldn’t start on Woodside until construction is completed on the Nixon/Kocher facility, Lichman said.
The hope is for the updated plants to be better suited to handle future challenges, Lichman said.
“We’re not building water treatment plants because there’s a problem,” he said. “We’re building water treatment plants because we want to stay ahead of any problems.”