The V.I. Waste Management Authority announced Friday it is the implementation of wastewater fees will be delayed “until further notice,” for more educational meetings and to install flow meters to measure dumped wastewater.
The new fee for “normal-strength” septage, the majority of loads that come from residential septic tanks and private treatment systems, is $75.58 per 1000 gallons. There is a lower fee of $13.34 per 1000 gallons for “low-strength” septage, mostly from private sewer lines and pump stations.
In September, 2016, Steve Aubin, WMA’s acting director at the time, said the proposed fee, which would set two different rates for two different grades of septage, would bring in about $420,664 to the authority annually. The authority urgently needs additional funding because its costs have been increasing and it is under mandates to close its landfills but its government appropriations have been flat. Cost-cutting across the board has delayed maintenance of some of the authority’s equipment and facilities and prevented it from paying its vendors on time, including its wastewater contractor, WMA officials have said in recent months.
The only fee currently charged to customers of its wastewater services is the Wastewater User Fee, which is collected via property tax bills and set aside in a fund for the VIWMA. This fee is only charged to customers connected to the public sewer system operated by the authority.
But the VIWMA also receives 525,000 gallons of privately collected septage each month in the St. Thomas-St. John district and an additional 91,000 gallons on St. Croix each month. The new fees would be charged to haulers upon unloading their tanks at the Harold G. Thompson Jr. treatment plant on St. Croix, the Mangrove Lagoon treatment plant on St. Thomas or the Cruz Bay treatment plant on St. John.
Currently Cruz Bay’s treatment plant is not accepting septage while the facilities are being repaired; haulers must travel to St. Thomas to offload.
In July, waste haulers objected to both the wastewater and to new solid waste fees and the fees were delayed.