By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK – The City of Tulsa plans to raise utility rates for drinking water and sewage treatment. Water rates are due to go up 7% and sewer rates up 10%.
Tulsa has four sewage treatment plants and all of that treated water eventually ends up in the Arkansas River. The city is planning to increase sewer rates to speed up maintenance on these plants that are way behind on upkeep.
Tulsa's north side waste water treatment plant handles sewage for 200,000 Tulsans. That's 32 million gallons a day and the wear is showing.
Plant managers say 80% of the equipment here is already beyond it's expected life and in many cases, repair parts are no longer available.
"We do the best we can to rob from other equipment and keep things going as much as we can," said Shawn Glen, Plant Superintendent. "But eventually we have to put them out of service and make do."
A few replacement projects are underway, like a sludge digestion tank that has been out of service for 20 years.
Much of the plant, like the pumps for example, date back to the 1970's. Each one, with valves, costs $200,000.
That's why the mayor is talking up a rate increase that he says is long overdue.
"In my view it does justify a rate increase," Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. "We've had to use borrowed money for the past several years to supplement our lack of money for maintenance and we're at the point now where we can't borrow money anymore. It's just not smart to do that."
While Tulsa's Waste water treatment system is working fine now, it's often at the edge of capacity and the equipment is at the end of its life span. The coming rate increase would help catch up on the maintenance backlog.
The sewer rates will go up 10% in October if the city council approves the change. It would allow the City to start replacing critical equipment.
"And it's a similar situation to the streets, it's either pay me now or pay me later," said Rick Hudson, Utility Board Chairman. "We must maintain this system or we're going to have to rebuild the plants entirely."