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WPCA Billing Change Proposed

The change means more "realistic" bills.

If you have a pool, your water bill might not reflect it. But change could come.

"The Trumbull Water Pollution Control Authority is in the process of changing sewer usage billing from charges based on averaging to charges for actual consumption," according to a posting on the town website.

"Currently charges are based on actual consumption for the two winter quarters and then an average of those winter quarters are used for the two summer quarters. Under those guidelines no summer consumption was used for billings. With the elimination of the averaging method, all four quarters will be based on actual consumption," it states.

Residents who receive sewer usage bills will be billed for actual consumption and residents with irrigation systems or swimming pools will be charged for water used for their irrigation systems and pools, according to the WPCA.

An Oct. 13, 2011 hearing at was sparsely attended and opinions were mixed on the proposal. Many said another hearing was needed at that time.

A second public informational meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at . A representative from Aquarion Water Company will be present to answer and addresses any questions about having a separate meter installed for irrigation systems. 

Another hearing will be scheduled for Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers and will place prior to the start of the WPCA’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Contact the Chairman of the Trumbull Water Pollution Control Authority at the offices of the WPCA at 203-452-5048 for further information.

JR February 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Completely agree with you. Will you be bringing your concerns to the Town Council leadership?
Scot Kerr February 10, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I just sent an email opposing the change to my District 1 town council members. Recommend others do the same. I see two issues: 1) the shell game of shifting the cost of the bad deal with Bridgeport to a subset of the households, and 2) a lack of focus on the long term plan for fixing our wastewater quandary. (It isn't even clear to me that the TC can stop the fee change, but we'll see.)
Kristy Waizenegger February 10, 2012 at 04:29 PM
So, this recommended change is a result of an unfavorable contract that exists between Trumbull and Bridgeport. Certain Trumbull residents who use more water will be charged more for sewer useage even if that water never passes through the sewers and water treatment plant. Well that is just plain wrong.
Cindy Katske February 10, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Kristy, I agree. I also am having a very hard time understanding that an appointed board has the authority to directly tax residents, seemingly without any oversight or accountability and without any responsibility to voters. To me, that is just plain wrong as well. To whom does the WPCA report? The Charter states simply that the members are appointed by the First Selectman and that the WPCA has "all powers and duties conferred or imposed by law." What does that mean? From the language in the statutes it appears that the WPCA answers to no one but the courts if a complaint is filed. Hopefully it won't come to that.
Pete Piotroski February 11, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I would also agree that the proposed changes are unfair to say the least. How can one be charged for a service they don't use? I'm willing to go the sub-meter route to separate out my usage, but to date can't find out how the sub-meter will be administered and who will do the calculations and reporting. After phone calls to Aquarion and Mr. Solemene, no answers were clear. Aquarion claimed the sub-meters will not be read or administered by them and Mr. Solemene wanted to wait until after Monday's meeting to comment and claimed that Aquarion gave me mis-information. Who knows?? In my case, based on last years data my WPCA summer bill would have increased from $140 to $425.
Richard W. White February 11, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Based on data from the Trumbull GIS, there are about 1,750 pools in town with an average surface area of 600 square feet and a total surface area over 1,000,000 square feet. I don't know how many of square feet (or vertical feet) a pool needs each season, but based on sewer rate data collected by Tighe and Bond, each vertical foot of water would cost the average pool about $25.00. http://rates.tighebond.com/(S(yxi2uo55dleyupyubhveyr55))/index.aspx I don't have a pool, but one question that someone should ask Aquarion is how long will it take to install 1,750 sub-meters. Do they have the resources to get these sub-meters installed before the first bill comes due?
Pete Piotroski February 11, 2012 at 05:20 PM
According to my conversation with Aquarion yesterday, the sub-meters will be the homeowners responsibility.
Kristy Waizenegger February 11, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Richard - Thanks for the information - what I will be stressing in my letter to the WPCA (I'm unable to attend the public hearing) is that none of the water we use for our pool goes into the sewers. I'd also like to better understand the reason they are suggesting a separate meter. As to increased consumption, I suppose we might use more water during the Summer - periodically we need to add some water to the pool due to the water level dropping slightly which happens due to activity and evaporation in the heat. Our pool holds 24,000 gallons of water which remains in the pool at the end of the season (our pool does not get drained when it is closed). And, for any pools (inground) that are emptied at the end of each season, they are filled with water trucks, not a hose, which would take weeks. It is simply wrong to charge sewer useage fees for water that does not go into the sewers.
Kristy Waizenegger February 11, 2012 at 05:34 PM
and what is the benefit of the sub-meter if they are charging me sewer fees based upon actual consumption anyway? I can just look at the difference in my bills!
Pete Piotroski February 11, 2012 at 06:26 PM
The benefit is that the sub-meter could measure the water that is not used for "household" use and therefore reflect the amount that would not flow out to the sewer connection. Of course, this means the pipes in your house that carry water to outside faucets and irrigation systems would have to be re-routed so the water used outside, for irrigation or washing cars, etc., would only flow through the sub-meter. This then would more accurately reflect the amount of water that did not go through to the sewer system. That also implies that some one would have to read that meter and subtract that amount from the "main" meter to arrive at the amount of water that was used for normal "household" use and therefore flowed through to the sewer system.
Kristy Waizenegger February 11, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Except that it's been explained to me that all water consumption will be subject to sewer useage charges if this policy is approved.
Pete Piotroski February 11, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Kristy, I believe that is versus the "averaging" that is now in place for the summer/fall calculations. The sub-meter route would still reflect actual usage that passes through to the sewer system. Personally I think the present averaging system is a good way to do it.
JR February 12, 2012 at 05:02 PM
What's to stop a homeowner from putting in a sub-meter and then using it for more than just "outside" consumption?
Pete Piotroski February 12, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Beats me! The sub-meter police??? I think their the ones that carry water pistols. Seriously you're right - it does open up a whole can of worms.
Kristy Waizenegger February 13, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I'm hoping I have a better understanding of all this after tonight's meeting. If I understand the proposed policy, all water useage will be subject to sewer useage fees whether it goes through the sewers or not. This whole "sub-meter" thing would only make sense if the amount of water used for pools and irrigation wasn't going to be subject to sewer useage fees but I don't believe that's the case given the information I've been able to get so far.
Thomas Tesoro February 13, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I think the WPCA needs to come clean on this tax. The usual speil that other Towns do it this way should not be the excuse. Nor should "fairness" be the mantra. We have done it the current way for years. What has changed? Why put additional burdens on Families, seniors etc for the sin of watering their lawns? I urge all to come out tonight or write to the WPCA c/o Town Hall. Fight Back against the tax by this unelected body.
Kristy Waizenegger February 13, 2012 at 06:30 PM
This proposed policy is like charging me for electricity based on the number of lights I have in my house even if I never turn half of them on.
Pete Piotroski February 13, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Tom T. - Hello again my friend. Kristy in the letter that was sent by the WPCA, the third paragraph from the end states - "Members of the WPCA have meet with an Aquarion representative and together an option of installing a second water meter used exclusively for outdoor watering has been developed. Trumbull would not include the consumption through this second meter as part of their sewage treatment contract obligation. That consumption would be billed by Aquarion but not included in the Sewage Treatment bills." Pretty clearly stated I think. Aquarion would still supply all the total water that we use and charge us for using it, as they have always done in the past. Nothing needs to be done on their part. One question is how to determine what happens to the water after they deliver it to us and we use it. How much we use passes through to the sewer system, and how much does not. It seems the second meter was the option chosen during the meeting of Aquarion and the WPCA as stated in the above quoted letter. It seems the unclear questions that are left unanswered are -A.) Who reads the second meter and does the math to determine how much water exited our homes that went to the sewage system, B.) Who pays for the second meter and associated in-house plumbing changes and permits/inspection(I'd suspect that would be us the homeowner) C.) Why can't we just do it using the present averaging method(but I believe that was answered in the letter - the cost of $500,000.)
Thomas Tesoro February 13, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Hi Peter, Good to hear from you again! I think we need to understand why this is being proposed. What is really driving a change at this time. Installing new meters, etc are a nuisance and may be costly. What is driving this? I will not be able to go in a timely fashion tonight so I hope someone can explain this to me. Hope all is well!!! Tom
Kristy Waizenegger February 13, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Thanks Peter, you are correct and it's much clearer in the letter than in the statement on the town website. It does not sound like the installation of this second meter is going to be easy or inexpensive. I wonder too how it was determined that this second meter will solve the problem of the shortfall of about $500,000 explained in the letter - I'm sure somone did the math. I will be attending tonight.
Pete Piotroski February 13, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Tom...I'll give one guess! But I'm sure you and I are well aware! All is well, best to Vicki.
Lisa Labella February 13, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Pete, you think you are joking, but Aquarion has a group of "Revenue Protection Analysts" and their job is just that - to investigate cases of "water loss" and take appropriate action when they identify people "stealing" water.
Pete Piotroski February 14, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Hi Lisa, I'm sure it does...I said it tongue in cheek.
Kristy Waizenegger February 14, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Lots of information tonight - Most interesting, if I understood correctly, was that only homes with irrigation systems will be able to install these second meters, or at least that's what I heard during the last few minutes of the meeting. I was under a different impression for most of the night until the last speaker - the last speaker of the night was a high consumption user, he said he received a letter, he knows he waters a lot but he uses hose/sprinkler and does not have an irrigation system so he does not get the option to install the second meter. If I understood correctly, and please someone correct me if I'm wrong, all water consumption will be subject to sewer useage fees,whether it goes into the sewers or not, and only homes with irrigation systems that install the second meter, will receive any sort of concession even though so many of us that may use more water that does not go into the sewers. Again, lots of information tonight so if someone heard differently, please say so, thanks.
Lisa Labella February 14, 2012 at 04:45 AM
I know, I just wanted folks to know they really exist - although without the water pistols I think :)
billholden February 14, 2012 at 04:55 AM
An underlying problem in this whole question is a sewer system being forced upon people who do not need and did not want sewers. Anyone not connected to the sewage system has no problem regarding irrigation systems or swimming pools. But if sewers pipes are in front of their house they must pay, through the assessment, for that pipe. And, if exempt from connecting, they still pay over $100 per year for sewer maintainance charge. The whole sewer system stinks.
Tom Kelly February 14, 2012 at 05:08 AM
I would like to thank Councilwoman Waizenegger for attending this evening's meeting and asking questions. There was about 65 people in attendance, a pretty big turnout for this type of meeting. WPCA Chairwoman Jeanine Lynch began her remarks by admitting that the proposed system will be "unfair" to sewer users because they are being charged based on water consumption, rather than based on how much is put into the sewer. Yes, she said it was unfair, but this is the way we are charged by Bridgeport. What the WPCA hopes is that high water users will have their irrigation system's consumption read by a submeter. The Aquarion Water Company will charge the homeowner $140 per year to have an additional meter. The homeowner will also be responsible to pay the plumber to configure the pipes to install the submeter. The water company representative was unable to provide an estimate as to how much the plumbing charge would be. The WPCA estimates that there are between 900-1000 high water consumers per year. The current means of billing using average consumption leaves a balance of about $500K per year that has to be paid for by all sewer users. Many people got up to ask questions. I found the answers to be often times vague and non-committal. For example, I asked it the WPCA knows that the billing change will go into effect this summer, when will they commit to lower the rate for all customers? The WPCA was not able to answer this question. More to come...
Tom Kelly February 14, 2012 at 05:18 AM
Several people asked why the WPCA would implement such a change now when the contract with Bridgeport is expiring in less than 5 months. The general thinking was that if the current contract language is unfair to Trumbull residents, fix it in the new contract. But the WPCA could not estimate how long it would take to finish negotiating and Ms. Lynch pointed out that the last contract took 7 years to negotiate. One thing that really bothered many in the audience was the response to the question as to what happens if a homeowner goes through the trouble and expense of installing the submeters, and Bridgeport does not agree to subtract that usage from our bills? The WPCA could not guarantee that Bridgeport would agree to subtract the usage on the submeters. That was discouraging to many. I asked the question as to why Bridgeport would agree to process the exact same amount of sewage as they do now for $500,000 less once the submeter usage was subtracted? It would seem they can't take a $500,000 reduction in what we currently pay, and will raise our rates to compensate. That would seemingly defeat the whole purpose of this change. I reminded the WPCA of all the residents in North Nichols who will incur significant costs in the next few months: They will receive their sewer assessments, pay thousands to connect to the sewer pipe, begin paying sewer use fees, and now they are hit with this, all at the same time and in this difficult economy. More to come....
Tom Kelly February 14, 2012 at 05:26 AM
All five members of the WPCA were nominated by Mr. Herbst, so the WPCA has completely turned over since the Herbst administration took office. Trumbull pays one of the highest sewer use rates in the state of Connecticut. The WPCA could not estimate how many residents will get a higher bill. There is a public hearing on this proposed change next Wednesday February 22 before the WPCA meeting at 7 pm in the Town Council Chambers. There are 900-1000 high volume summer water users. Those residents could see their bills go up by $400-500 on average if they do not install the submeters. I left the meeting discouraged. These commissioners are appointed, and not elected but have the power to levy sewer assessments, determine rates, negotiate contracts, etc. Discussion ensued about the formation of a Trumbull Sewer Users Association to represent the interests of homeowners on all issues regarding our sewers. Additionally, the possibility of forming a Political Action Committee (PAC) to advocate for sewer users was raised.
Pete Piotroski February 14, 2012 at 06:32 PM
As one of the irrigation types and as long as I have a choice, I refuse to pay for a service I'm not using, the "water tax". My lawn will go brown this summer. That should save me $500 for the water and $500 for NOT running it through the sewer system. I will try rain barrels to collect water for my garden. How frustrating!! I like a nice green lawn! So, did the WPCA make any promises to at least get some answers before the next meeting? I can't believe WPCA doesn't talk to Bridgeport. Did/does our First Selectman have any comments/input?

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