CITY OF MAUMEE VOTES TO RAISE WATER & SEWER RATES
The City of Maumee voted at its July 6, 2021, City Council meeting to raise water and sewer rates by approximately 64%, in scheduled increments, from August 1, 2021 – January 1, 2025.
Water rate increases are necessary to offset costs due to a 2019 negotiated agreement with the City of Toledo, who supplies water to Maumee. Sewer rate increases are due, in part, to increased need by Maumee for sanitary sewer discharge services from Lucas County. Sewer rate increases are also due to EPA-mandated maintenance, upgrades, and replacement of the City of Maumee’s sewer system infrastructure due to Maumee’s violation of Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6111 and the Clean Water Act of 1972. The City of Maumee discharged sewage into the Maumee River and failed to report sanitary sewer discharge events to the Ohio EPA since 1996.
“These violations were unrealized by Council and not adequately reported by staff for 24 years,” said Richard Carr, City of Maumee Mayor. “Upon uncovering them in July 2020, we immediately contacted the Ohio EPA, who worked with City of Maumee, to outline an order to bring our city into compliance. We are dedicated to resolving these issues under the guidance of the Ohio EPA.”
City of Maumee contacted the Ohio EPA on July 10, 2020, who responded with its Director’s Final Findings and Orders document which outlines resolution requirements. The Director’s Final Findings and Orders were approved in final form on July 21, 2021. Maumee estimates that the resolution will take approximately 30 years to complete at a cost in excess of $100 million, which includes a fine of $29,936.00 by the Ohio EPA. However, the City wants to make clear that it intends to move aggressively to reduce these overflows, and that the City will report any overflows to Lucas County and the EPA.
- Why are Maumee’s water rates increasing?
- Water rate increases are necessary to offset costs due to a 2019 negotiated agreement between all suburban communities with their water provider, City of Toledo, which equalizes regional water rates by 2026.
- Historically, the City of Maumee has not levied a rate sufficient enough to properly maintain and replace water infrastructure.
- Maumee’s current water rates are the lowest in the area.
- Why are Maumee’s sewer rates increasing?
- The City of Maumee has experienced increased need for sanitary sewer services from its provider, Lucas County, partially due to stormwater inflow and infiltration into our sanitary system, and must offset these costs.
- The City of Maumee must comply with EPA-mandated maintenance, upgrades, and replacement of Maumee’s sewer system infrastructure due to Maumee’s violation of Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6111 and the The Clean Water Act of 1972 for discharging sewage into the Maumee River.
- Lucas County must pass on any costs for their related major capital expenditures to customer communities as is Toledo’s water treatment system.
- How much will water and sewer rates increase?
- What is Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6111?
- ORC Chapter 6111 governs water pollution and states that sewage, sludge, sludge materials, industrial waste, or other wastes may not be placed in any waters of the state.
- How does the Clean Water Act of 1972 apply in this situation?
- The Clean Water Act of 1972 states that stormwater cannot be discharged to sanitary sewer lines. Some of Maumee’s storm water drainage runs through its sanitary sewer lines.
- It also states that no sanitary discharge can be made into the waters of the state and that communities must provide notification if they do discharge.
- What were Maumee’s environmental violations?
- The City of Maumee discharged sewage into the Maumee River above and beyond its authorized limit and failed to report sanitary sewer discharge events and volumes to the Ohio EPA since 1996.
- City of Maumee is required to self-report daily discharge levels as a result of heavy rain events and/or snow melt.
- How did the environmental violations happen?
- City of Maumee’s sanitary sewer discharge limit was modified in 1984 to increase discharge levels to 25 million gallons per year.
- Maumee failed to report its sanitary sewer discharge events since 1996 and continued to do so until 2020.
- Violations were unrealized by the Mayor and Council and were not reported by former City of Maumee staff charged with the legal responsibility to do so.
- A Service Division staff member reported the violations to the current City Administrator, who started March 1, 2020. The City Administrator reported the same to the Mayor who instructed him to report the violations immediately to the Ohio EPA.
- What does Maumee have to do to comply with the EPA-mandated maintenance, upgrades, and replacement of the city sewer system infrastructure?
- Document a scheduling plan to complete a Sewer System Evaluation Study within 180 days of signing the Ohio EPA Order which was approved by City Council and the EPA on July 21, 2021.
- Within 180 days of July 21, 2021, the City must identify and implement a Public Notification Program: to inform the public of the locations of SSOs; advise the public of SSO occurrences; inform the public of possible health and environmental impacts associated with SSOs; and advise the public against contact recreation when elevated bacterial levels may endanger public health.
- The City must post signs at all SSO locations.
- The City also has 270 days, from July 21, 2021, to submit a SSO Emergency Response Plan (ERP) that identifies measures to protect public health and the environment in the event of an SSO.
- The City must submit, within 1 year of July 21, 2021, a Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance Program (CMOM) for all parts of the sanitary collection system.
- Within 3 years the City shall submit a Sewer System Evaluation Study (SSES) which specifies majors tasks and estimates the time of completion of these tasks.
- Hasn’t Maumee maintained its sewer systems over the years?
- Yes, Maumee has maintained its extensive sewer system regularly by lining pipes with the latest high-performing materials to extend their life and handle the City’s sewage and storm drainage discharge.
- The City of Maumee estimates that it has enough sewer pipe underground to run from Maumee to Dayton or Columbus.
- Some of Maumee’s original sewer lines are more than100 years old.
- I thought Maumee had considered installing a $35 million storm system at one time that would have helped this situation.
- Maumee Council is not pursuing this storm system.
- The reality is that the new storm system would not have measurably reduced Maumee’s sanitary sewer discharge events or volumes or prevented ORC Chapter 6111 or The Clean Water Act of 1972 violations.
- How long will it take to fix everything? How much will it cost?
- Maumee estimates that the resolution may take up to 30 years to complete and could exceed $100 million, although a substantial portion of the work must be completed early in that time frame.
- How will Maumee pay for this? Why do I have to pay for the city’s mistakes? Will my rates go up?
- If the federal government passes an infrastructure package, City of Maumee will pursue federal and state funding opportunities to help offset some costs. The EPA is aiding the City of Maumee in terms of technical expertise and grant solicitation.
- Water and sewer rates will be increased over the next five years and will be reviewed on an annual basis based on regional water rates, county sewer rates and EPA requirements.
- Any mistakes or lack of oversight by former employees of the City can only be paid for by rate payers who are partners in the Water/Sewer enterprise system. The City is its residents and property owners.
- Will the water and sewer rate increases affect all citizens and businesses?
- Yes, however, rates are reviewed on an annual basis and are based on regional water rates, county sewer rates, and EPA requirements.
- Does the Senior Citizen / Disability Discount program still apply?
- Yes, please contact the City of Maumee to verify eligibility.
- So, Maumee dumped sanitary sewage into the Maumee River for 24 years? Is it still doing that?
- All cities along the Maumee River have at some point overflowed sanitary sewage to the Maumee River. Unfortunately, Maumee must continue to discharge sewage into the Maumee River to prohibit creating a more acute health risk by flooding basements of homes in significantly affected areas of the City. However, the Mayor, City Council and City Administration are working with the EPA and are taking aggressive steps to significantly reduce these events and the volume.
- Who’s to blame for this? What role within city government is responsible for tracking sanitary sewer discharge events and their volume?
- Violations were unrealized by the Mayor and Council and were not reported by former City of Maumee staff to Lucas County and to the EPA as required by state and federal law.
- The current City Administration, and other staff, were made aware of the violations and reported them to the Mayor who instructed them to report them immediately to the Ohio EPA. The Ohio EPA was contacted immediately.
- The Department of Public Service Sewer Division is responsible for tracking sanitary sewer discharge levels.
- How were the environmental violations discovered?
- The current City Administrator, who started March 1, 2020, and other staff discovered the violations and reported them to the Mayor who instructed him to report them immediately to the Ohio EPA.
- Is it safe to drink, cook, and bathe in City of Maumee water?
- Maumee’s municipal water system remains safe for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
- How has the Maumee River been impacted? Is it safe to swim, fish, and boat?
- The City of Maumee has not been made aware of any health risks associated with recreation activities in, on, or along the Maumee River. However, the City will inform the public of potential health risks associated with its collection systems operation.
Richard Carr, Mayor
Patrick Burtch, City Administrator