Proposed new water treatment plant could mean higher water bills

Ohio

PORTSMOUTH, OHIO (WOWK) — The Portsmouth City Council is discussing a big piece of legislation Monday night that could affect everyone in the city who uses water.

They are looking over a final design on a new water treatment plant and deciding whether they should take out a $3.5 million loan to help build it.

It’s no secret to those who work with Portsmouth’s current water treatment facility that it’s overdue for an upgrade.

“Things here should be updated every 15 years, and we haven’t updated since like the 1970s. So we are way past due,” says Stacy Williams, chief operator of the Portsmouth Water Treatment Plant.

While operators at the plant assure the community that the water is up to par, the need for a new plant is manifesting as crumbling concrete and peeling walls, along with other more critical issues.

“We just had a pump worked on and it took six to eight weeks because it’s so old, they have to actually go back and make the parts. We have parts of pumps and motors that don’t even exist anymore,” Williams says.

Williams says the current facility is only operating at half capacity right now.

“It was built around a population of 50,000 people and a steel mill that was running at the time,” says Sam Sutherland, city manager for Portsmouth, Ohio.

With a population of less than half that now, Sutherland says the plant is just way too big.

Now, the city council is discussing whether to build a new smaller and more efficient water treatment plant—and how to pay for it.

“We’re going to have to borrow some money to make that happen, and that’s what the legislation’s for,” Sutherland says.

The project has a total price tag of $67 million, and while the council is hoping to offset most of that through loans, some may be passed on to consumers.

“We’re not gonna get this whole project paid for free. So there is going to be rate increases. We know that going in. I would speculate that our rates will probably go up about 50 percent. I know people kinda raise an eyebrow when they think they’re gonna have to pay a little bit more for water, but our rates are really, really low,” Sutherland says.

While construction of the new water plant may raise people’s rates, officials at the current plant says it’ll be more beneficial to the city in the long run.

“The more things break down, it costs a lot more money to fix it because it’s outdated. Moneywise, I think it would be a definitely an improvement as far as saving money for the city in the long run,” Williams says.

If the project gets the greenlight, construction would begin next year, with completion expected in 2025.

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