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St. Louis City Water Division Proposes Water Rate Hike

St. Louis City Water Division Proposes Water Rate Hike

The City of St. Louis is proposing a rate hike on water fees because it says the money will prevent a water crisis that could be similar to the one that took place in Flint, Michigan.

"They are a little bit of a different story,” said director of public utilities, Curt Skouby, “it's not a crisis now but it's a long term planning, You could run into not having a reliable water source."

Allman Reporter Aisha Khan took a tour of the water division where Skouby showed her some parts of the water infrastructure that he said are aging and need millions of dollars’ worth of improvements.

"The valves that need to be looked at are 60-years-old and we have a lot of those,” Skouby said.

That's why a proposal for a rate increase is before the City Board of Aldermen.

"We're looking at a bond issue for $75 million," said Skouby, "it would be three, 7 percent increases over the same number of years, the first one would go into effect July 1 of next year and then each of the subsequent two, July 1."

Skouby explained that the average water bill for city residents is around $70 per quarter. A 7 percent increase he said equates to less than $2 a month or six cents a day.

"Every rate increase we have has a component of it that we will use to devote and to address aging infrastructure and help renew the system," Skouby said, "it's something we are going to need to do more and more of as time goes on."

The last rate hike was in July 2010. Aisha looked into how some of that money has been used so far.

To improve water efficiency, the department installed two new raw water pumps totaling more than $2 million. Replaced three valves at the Chain of Rocks plant to improve its water distribution system totaling close to $4 million and spent more than $1 million rebuilding and replacing the shore intake concrete at the crane way bridge.

But Graham Renz, a policy researcher with the Show-Me Institute said that the city needs to look at other ways to fund its water infrastructure.

"We know the city has given away over $700 million in tax subsidies and those are funds that could have gone to schools, libraries and water infrastructure," he said, “what the city might look to do is rely more on metered rates instead of flat rates so folks who use more water pay more and folks who use less water pay less."

Using a drinking water analysis kit, Aisha tested a water sample taken from the area of Hampton Road and Oakland Avenue.

Tests for total water hardness, pH, nitrite and alkalinity tested ‘ok’, For copper, the test measured between a level zero to 3.0, the sample water tested at zero.

The iron test measured at a scale of zero to 5, the sample water resulted in a zero for that metal.

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