Los Angeles residents can expect to see some alterations in their utility bills in the coming months, as the city looks to upgrade its sewer and water infrastructure.
The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) is looking to fulfill new water quality requirements set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by investing $1.1 billion in its infrastructure over the next five years.
Joe Ramallo, the department’s director of public affairs, said the monthly increase in 2012 will be approximately 35 cents per customer.
“These projects are critical to ensuring the safety of the water we serve to our customers and are part of a compliance agreement with the California Department of Public Health,” Ramallo said. “With overall water rates lower this year, we have an opportunity to collect the necessary funding while keeping this year’s water rates lower than last year’s.”
The compliance requirements include covering, bypassing and/or building new reservoirs to replace five out of the department’s 10 reservoirs; converting the Los Angeles Reservoir to ultraviolet light treatment; converting and reducing chemicals; and completing more than 100 other improvements.
According to department documents, an independent third-party review of the water quality factor increase will be ongoing until January. A rate-payer advocate will be hired next month as well. On Jan. 25, the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to discuss the rate increase, and LADWP customers will be notified of any action.
Similarly, the Los Angeles Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation is looking to alter its rates. Lisa Mowery, the bureau’s acting chief financial officer, said the bureau is looking at a 10-year series of rate adjustments.
“The issue is really our infrastructure,” Mowery said.
She said the first three years of adjustments will result in a 4.5 percent increase for customers, and the last seven years will incorporate a 6.5 percent increase. Mowery said a sewer bill of $29.88 would jump to $52.99 by the 10th year.
The proposal has already been reviewed by the city council, which gave the bureau permission to send customers a notice regarding the plan. The council is scheduled to have a public hearing on the matter on Jan. 27. Mowery said any rate increase would occur on March 1, with the subsequent increases being applied every July in the following years.
She said the majority of the city’s sewer system is more than 80 years old. Much of it needs to be rehabilitated or replaced, and the treatment plants are aging as well, Mowery said.
“We’ve had to defer a lot of this work,” she added.
Mowery said the last rate increase occurred in 2005. She said the bureau refrained from making increases up until now because of the economy. The need for system upgrades, however, is reaching a “critical level,” Mowery said.
Sewer customers likely received a notice about the increase, and it was highlighted in the bureau’s October newsletter. Mowery said it contains tips on keeping sewer rates low. The bureau serves 650,000 customers and has four treatment plants.
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