The town’s sewer user fees will be going up.

At the Sept. 3 Sewer Commission meeting, the commission voted unanimously to raise sewer user fees to $6.10 per hundred cubic feet (CCF), and approved a minimum charge of $237.04 per year, for any property connected to the sewer.

These rates are set to go into effect in the next billing cycle.

This is an eight percent increase from the current user fees, which is $5.65 CCF, and a minimum charge of $219.55 per year.

The commission projects moving about $375,000 from the reserve to cover expenses.

Stamford treatment plant

Chairman Craig Flaherty said everything the town collects “ultimately ends up over at the treatment plant in the city of Stamford.”

“We were renegotiating our five-year contract with them, which has now been signed and finalized,” he said.

Stamford’s treatment plant continues to be “an expensive one — and we really don’t have much of a choice because they’re the only game around for people who want to treat our wastewater,” he added.

The negotiations with Stamford are always protracted, according to Flaherty. “This one took a year and it was really just a renewal,” he said.

“We go through their budgeting and accounting with a fine tooth comb. We are always wary of them attributing extra costs to Darien as a convenient alternative, and so we task them on each line item. Most of the time, we come to a fair solution.”

He added one of the items the city of Stamford picked up on this year is “two sub-areas of town that have been flowing into Stamford. We have not metered the amount of water from those two sub-areas — so they focused on that pretty hard this year, saying we’re going to resolve this — and were going to charge for it.”

Inflow and Infiltration (I&I)

I&I is any water that gets into the sewer that’s not sewage.

“So it could be rainwater flowing through a gutter or getting into a manhole lid, it could be groundwater getting in through leaky pipes, it could be floodwaters getting into the system in times of heavy rainfall,” Flaherty said.

All of this water doesn’t need to go to a treatment plant, and doesn’t need to be paid for. It could just run off into rivers and groundwaters.

According to Flaherty, the amount of I&I flowing into the town’s sewer has gone up by small, incremental amounts each year.

“As the system ages, it tends to get a little bit more [I&I] water in,” he said.

On a per gallon system basis, the percentage of I&I that Stamford has is lower than the percentage of I&I that Darien has, according to Flaherty.

“So we’re actually paying a fair amount of money for clean water treated,” he said.

He added that the commission is going to be moving forward with studies and maintenance programs to work on a solution to this, “but that’s going to require money. That money, at least in the near term — more appropriately comes out of the capital reserve accounts and things like that,” he added.

Prior/future rates

The town’s water use went down three percent from last year.

“Since we are only billing based on the amount of water that people use, when people use less water, that’s kind of our grand list — the mill rate has to go up,” Flaherty said.

Last year, the sewer user rate was raised 11 cents — from $5.54 to $5.65, which was a 1.98 percent increase.

It wasn’t raised at all during the previous four years.

“We’re very focused on it,” said Flaherty, in regard to this year’s increase. “We have a little bit of a cushion but it does look like we’re going to be in a cycle of increases for a while.”

He said the hope is that once we “get into the teeth of our I&I program,” the amount of water being sent to Stamford would be reduced, which would therefore reduce how much the town is charged, and then the town would “hopefully, get a return on our investment for what we spent.”

The full meeting can be viewed on Darien TV79.

sfox@darientimes.com