Balancing Sewage Capacity with Cost

Lexington's Urban County Council is moving forward with a plan to fix the city's sanitary sewer system. The Lexington Division of Water Quality recommended to council members Tuesday that improvements to the sewer system be designed to handle up to 3.2 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Based on weather statistics, that kind of storm happens around once every two years. 

"Louisville, Knoxville, Nashville, Northern Kentucky, Atlanta, Greenville - they all have recommended two-year storms. We feel like that precedent has already been set in these other communities that that is an intelligent way to be able to approach it," said Water Quality Director Charlie Martin. 

City budget director Ryan Barrow says the remedial measures plan comes with significant cost, but it appears to be the cheapest option available to be in compliance with the EPA. 

"We're essentially talking about, based on the numbers, a 5 to 10 percent annual rate increase in order to fund this capital." 

Barrow estimates that in 14 years, the average monthly sewer bill in Lexington will be $71. 

Other plans considered would improve the sewer system for 5-year or 10-year storms, but they carry a higher price tag. Martin says Birmingham, Alabama opted for a 10-year sewer plan, and now that community is considering filing for bankruptcy. 

The Urban County Council won't have to deal with the rate issue just yet. They will vote Thursday to approve the 2-year storm design plan, which is due to the EPA in October.