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October 30, 2013

City makes case for wastewater rate increase during public forum

NORMAN — Norman voters will be asked to consider a sewer service rate fee increase on Nov. 12. The current charge is a $3.90 base rate, plus a use fee of $160 per 1,000 gallons of treated wastewater. Norman’s commodity fee has not been raised since 1996.

The proposed increase would raise the base rate by $1.10 and the use rate by $1.10 per 1,000 gallons.

Currently, Norman is under a consent order by the Department of Environmental Quality. Certain upgrades must be made in the system or the city could face fines of $10,000 per day.

Norman is the only city in Oklahoma where residents vote on utility rates, Utilities Director Ken Komiske said. On Tuesday, the city hosted an informational public forum outlining why the rate increase is needed.

“This is a very necessary infrastructure upgrade that our system needs,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.

The forum was attended by a handful of Boy Scouts and their mothers, a high school student activist and about six other members of the community.

Komiske plowed ahead through the detailed information, despite the lean crowd. The forum was recorded and televised on the city’s public information television channel and will be rerun periodically prior to the event.

Komiske outlined the history of funding, past projects, continuing projects and proposed construction along with the proposed rates. Part of that history is the tracking of the name from sewer to wastewater to water reclamation.

“We don’t make new water,” Komiske said. “What we do is reclaim the water that is there.”

Treatment of sewage, or wastewater, is technology-driven these days, and that effluent — the reclaimed water discharged by the sewer plant — is cleaner than ever before.

That’s good for the environment because that discharge into rivers and creeks throughout the nation eventually ends up in someone’s water supply. As the technology to treat wastewater increases, water reuse has become the movement of the future.

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