BJWSA water, sewer rates to rise next month

Utility fined for release of unhealthy bacteria to Broad River

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJune 26, 2014 

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  • BJWSA fined for fecal coliform discharge

    Earlier this year, the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority paid a $2,000 fine to state regulators for elevated fecal coliform levels in wastewater it discharges into the Broad River.

    On several days last year and in January, monitoring showed higher than allowed fecal coliform levels in discharges from the Laurel Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

    Minor malfunctions in the chemical feed system had provided inadequate chlorine levels on those days, BJWSA spokesman Matt Brady said.

    In response, BJWSA upgraded its system to provide phone and email alerts if malfunctions occur, according to DHEC documents.

Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority customers will see an average increase of $5 on their monthly bills beginning in July.

The authority's board of directors approved the residential and commercial increases Thursday when it approved the authority's budget for next fiscal year, according to BJWSA.

The increases, the first in three years, are to combat rising costs of power, chemicals and fuel, and offset declines in residential and commercial demand, BJWSA said.

"We raise rates reluctantly, and we only do so after thorough analysis," BJWSA general manager Ed Saxon said. "We will continue to carefully plan for the future and improve efficiencies to keep our rates steady and our services affordable."

The average residential monthly bill for water only is expected to go up by about $1, to $31.22, according to a news release. The average bill for water and sewer combined is expected to go up about $5, to $83.22 a month.

Most of the increase for residential customers who have both water and sewer service will be on the "flat-fee" portion of their monthly bills.

Residential customers currently pay a flat fee of $18 per month for water, sewer and irrigation. That fee will increase to $23 per month in July. In addition to the flat fee, customers also pay usage fees based on consumption for water, sewer and irrigation.

Usage rates will remain the same for water, but will increase by 5 cents per 1,000 gallons for sewer and 14 cents for irrigation.

For commercial customers, flat fees will increase from $18 per month to $27 per month beginning in July.

Rates for groups that purchase water wholesale from BJWSA will increase between 14 to 30 cents per 1,000 gallons, BJWSA spokesman Matt Brady said. Those groups include the military installations, Moss Creek in greater Bluffton, and Callawassie and Harbor islands. Such groups typically pass rate increases along to their customers, Brady said.

For example, the Fripp Island Public Service District will increase rates 25 cents per 1,000 gallons for its customers beginning in July, Fripp district manager Ernie Wilson said. The district buys all of its water wholesale from BJWSA, so it has to raise rates, he said.

The Hilton Head Public Service District might not pass along the BJWSA increase to customers immediately, but it will consider higher rates in its annual review of charges, which typically occurs in winter, district spokesman Pete Nardi said.

The public service district serves about 19,000 customers in the north- and mid-island areas.

Water from BJWSA accounts for only about 30 percent of what the district needs, Nardi said. The district also uses a reverse-osmosis plant and wells, he said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at

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