Summer Sewer Cap Ends October 31

Typically, most of the water a household uses enters the sewer system as wastewater, and sewer charges are based on water usage. During the summer, many residents use water outdoors for gardening, filling pools and washing cars, and this water does not enter the sewer system. For this reason, HU sets a cap for the summer sewer rates, and from May 1 through October 31, customers are not charged a sewer fee for water used above the cap. HU uses the months between November and April to calculate each customer’s winter average, and then caps the customer’s summer sewer rate at 120 percent of that amount.

Why is your sewer bill more than your water bill?

You (hopefully) would never drink water from the Tennessee River before it was treated. And, also hopefully, you would never run a pipe from your toilet, washing machine and dishwasher straight into Shoal Creek. Turning river water into drinking water has a cost. Cleaning waste water so that it can be returned to the environment has an even higher cost.

If you buy your water from Hartselle Utilities and are connected to our sewer system, your bill will have separate line items for water and wastewater.

Each sewer customer has a base sewer charge that is designed to provide a portion of the required revenue to help maintain HU’s sewer system infrastructure; fund capital projects within our sewer collection system and at our Wastewater Treatment Plant; and ensure that HU can meet its debt repayment obligations for loans taken out to maintain the wastewater system infrastructure. Additionally, customers are charged a volumetric charge for sewer system usage based on their water usage, because most of the time the water a household uses exits the home through the sewer system as wastewater.

Hartselle Utilities purchases water from Decatur Utilities. Decatur Utilities bears the costs of turning water from the Tennessee River into safe drinking water, and they have the benefit of scale from a large customer base to spread the cost over many individual water customers.

Wastewater – sewage – that enters HU’s system is treated in Hartselle. The Hartselle Utilities Wastewater Treatment Plant cleans wastewater and sewage so that it can be returned safely to our environment.

Everything that enters our sewer system is processed to meet both federal and state standards. And as environmental regulations have become more stringent, the cost to meet the standards has increased.

In addition, as scientific discoveries about the harmful effects of pollution provide more information about what is safe, treating wastewater becomes increasingly more complicated. At the turn of the century, if wastewater was treated at all, it was only to remove really big, obvious items. Later, settling tanks were introduced to remove small solids, but the water released back into the environment was still polluted by today’s standards.

Today, HU’s wastewater treatment process first removes solids – everything from rags and plastics to sand and smaller particles – found in the wastewater. Then, naturally-occurring ‘helpful’ bacteria and other microorganisms consume organic matter and pollutants in the wastewater, and are then separated from the water. Finally, the wastewater is treated to restore oxygen back into the water to ensure that it can support life, before it is released into Shoal Creek.

It is an effective system, but an expensive one to operate.

In addition to the treatment plant costs, a sewer system’s infrastructure is more expensive to build, replace and maintain than that of a water system.

Drinking water is delivered through pressurized pipes. It can flow uphill as well as downhill, so water lines can be placed only a few feet underground. Water pipes can generally be constructed in already cleared right-of-way areas. By contrast, the flow of wastewater through sewer lines is controlled by gravity. Sewer pipes must be installed in lower lying areas, and placed deeper in the ground, both of which can increase construction costs, replacement cost and the cost to maintain our sewer system.  In addition, there are less sewer customers to spread these increased costs to than those of our water system.

There are ways you can help HU keep our wastewater treatment costs down and help protect our environment. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t put anything into toilets other than human waste and toilet paper. Even if a wet wipe is advertised as ‘flushable,’ it’s a solid. Throw it in the trash.
  • Scrape food leftovers into the trash, or even better, into a compost bin
  • Pour fats, oils and milk into used containers, with lids, and put into the trash, instead of pouring them down the drain.
  • Use environmentally friendly detergents and cleaning products.
  • Wash paint brushes in a bucket and pour the water into your yard or garden, away from drains.
  • Dispose of household chemicals in safe containers instead of pouring them down the drain.
  • Never pour leftover medicine down the drain or into the toilet.

Summer Wastewater Fees Capped Beginning in May

Hartselle has just had one of the driest seasons ever, and many residents are planning to spend more time watering lawns and gardens this summer to compensate for Mother Nature. Water used outside doesn’t enter into our wastewater system, and so Hartselle Utilities has a long-standing policy to cap summer sewer fees.

Water and Wastewater are two separate services provided by Hartselle Utilities. HU purchases water from Decatur Utilities and distributes it to customers. Wastewater – what is returned through the sewer pipes – is treated at HU’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and cleaned before it is returned to Shoal Creek.

Sewer charges are higher than water charges, because the costs to treat wastewater to meet federal and state standards, and ensure that it is clean enough to be returned safely to our environment, are higher than the cost to purchase water.

Hartselle Utilities meters the amount of water each customer uses each month. Typically, most of the water a household uses enters the sewer system as waste, so each customer’s water bill is used to calculate their sewer fees. This is the national standard for calculating residential wastewater treatment charges.

During the summer months, residents generally use more water outdoors – to irrigate lawns, top off swimming pools and wash cars, for example – and this water does not enter the sewer system. For this reason, HU sets a cap for the summer sewer rates at 120 percent of the average of each customer’s winter usage. From May 1 to October 31, customers are not charged a sewer fee for water used above the cap.

HU uses the months between November and April to calculate winter averages, and then caps each customer’s summer sewer rates at 120 percent of that figure. If a customer does not have a long enough billing history to provide a winter average, the system average is used to calculate their summer sewer cap.

HU customers who use a great deal of water outdoors year-round might consider an outdoor water irrigation meter, says Customer Service Manager Terri Harris. The cost to install a one-inch irrigation meter is $528. There is no sewer charge for water received through an irrigation meter.

However, Harris cautions, for the typical household with a backyard garden, the cost of an irrigation meter does not lower the customer’s sewer bill enough to pay for itself. She strongly suggests that customers considering an irrigation meter calculate their total costs, and the expected savings, before installing one.

Rate changes effective July 1 & Service Practice Policy Changes

Base charges for water, sewer and gas services will increase effective July 1, 2015.

There will be a two percent across the board rate increase for water, and the average residential monthly water bill will increase $.54.

The sewer rate will increase 3.0 percent across the board. The average residential monthly sewer bill will increase $1.23.

Natural gas will increase across the board by 2.16 percent, and the average residential monthly natural gas bill during the heating season will increase $1.00.

Other Changes

Hartselle Utilities has recently updated some of their service practice policies. Copies of these updated policies are available at our main office located at 1010 Sparkman St. NW, Hartselle, AL.

Robert Wright Retiring

Robert Wright
Robert Wright
Robert Wright, HU’s Sanitary Sewer System Superintendent, will retire December 31, after 30 years with Hartselle Utilities.

Wright, who served in the Marine Corps after graduating from Morgan County High School, was hired by Hartselle Utilities in 1984 as a backhoe operator on the sewer field crew. He was promoted through the ranks to become foreman, where he stayed for over 20 years.

“Robert helped put in most of the current sewer lines in the system,” says Wastewater Treatment Plant Chief Operator Glen Byrum, who has worked for Wright for 15 years. “He has knowledge in his head that no one else here has; he knows the whole system. A lot of people started out in the sewer department before moving into other departments, so he’s also trained more people at HU than anybody.”

“I can’t remember how many people I’ve supervised over the years,” Wright acknowledges. “Over the years I have seen a lot of changes.”

Wright was named Sanitary Sewer System Superintendent in July 2005, and soon after began revamping the HU’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. “We had inoperational equipment that now works like it is supposed to, and sludge processing and drying beds that are now in full use,” Wright says. “We’ve done a pretty substantial amount of work.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” he continues. “The last 10 years have been the most stressful and tough, but rewarding. Out in the field, I knew exactly what needed to be done. As superintendent, I had to learn a lot. I’d walk around here in the evenings when everybody was gone, trying to figure out and prioritize everything that needed to be done. We created a plan, and in the end we’ve been able to do everything that was in that plan.”

“Thirty years ago when I was first hired, then-Gas Superintendent Preston Hall told me, ‘The people of Hartselle pay your salary, so you need to help them every chance you get.’ I’ve always tried to do that, and it’s kind of been my motto,” Wright says.

Rate changes effective July 1

Base charges for water, sewer and gas services will increase effective July 1, 2014.

There will be a two percent across the board rate increase for water, and the average residential monthly water bill will increase $.50.

The sewer rate will increase 3.1 percent across the board. The average residential monthly sewer bill will increase $1.23.

Natural gas will increase across the board by 2.15 percent, and the average residential monthly natural gas bill during the heating season will increase $.99.

Wastewater Treatment Plant To Reuse Water, Save 800,000 Gallons Per Month

Hartselle Utilities’ Wastewater Treatment Plant has begun a new project to reuse treated water in the plant’s operations.

Wastewater from throughout Hartselle is treated at the plant to meet federal and state standards. The treated wastewater is then released into Shoal Creek, which is part of the Flint River watershed. The Wastewater Treatment Plant is designed to treat 2.7 million gallons of water a day from homes, businesses and industries from the City of Hartselle; it currently discharges about 2 million gallons each day into the creek.

The plant’s chlorine feed and headworks use about 800,000 gallons of water per month. Currently, the plant purchases potable water from Decatur Utilities. Potable water is generally defined as drinking water safe enough to be consumed by humans or used with low risk of immediate or long term harm.

According to Hartselle Utilities Engineering Services Manager Glen Partlow, water used within the plant’s systems doesn’t need to meet drinking water standards, and can safely be reused from the plant’s discharge flow.

“We’ve seen rate increases from Decatur Utilities for the last three years,” explains Hartselle Utilities General Manager Bob Sittason. “By reusing the water within our own system, we will no longer have to purchase this water and save an estimated $26,000.00 per year.”

Last July, the Hartselle Utilities Board approved a plan to build the infrastructure to allow this water to be redirected from within the plant, reducing its dependence on purchased potable water.

The project will cost approximately $90,000, and Partlow expects to recover that cost within three and a half years, possibly sooner. “We were able to utilize some existing piping and buildings to save on costs,” he explains. WWTP staff will paint the reuse pipes purple, a common practice for identifying recycled water.

Major components of the WWTP, Partlow says, will keep a potable water backup system, with backflow preventions built in. “We always want to keep our potable water source in place, just in case,” he says.

Summer Sewer Cap Begins in May

If you use water outdoors during the summer, HU’s annual summer sewer cap will save you money.

Typically, most of the water a household uses enters the sewer system as wastewater, and like water bills, sewer charges are based on the number of gallons used. However, in the summertime, many residents use water outdoors for gardening, filling pools and washing cars, and this water does not enter the sewer system. For this reason, HU sets a cap for the summer sewer rates, and customers are not charged a sewer fee for water used above the cap.

HU uses the months between November and April to calculate each customer’s winter average, and then caps the customer’s summer sewer rate at 120 percent of that amount.

HU customers who use a great deal of water outdoors year-round might consider an outdoor irrigation meter, says Customer Service Manager Terri Harris. The cost to install a meter is $275; the base monthly rate is $$10.58 plus charges for the water used. However, there is no sewer charge for water received through an irrigation meter.

For more information, call HU’s Customer Service Department at (256) 773-3340.

Summer Sewer Cap Began in May, Runs Through October

Typically, most of the water a household uses enters the sewer system as waste. However, in the summertime, many residents use water outdoors – to irrigate lawns and wash cars, for example – and this water never enters the sewer system. For this reason, HU sets a cap for the summer sewer rates, at 120 percent of the average of each customer’s winter usage. Customers are not charged a sewer fee for water used above the cap.

HU uses the months between November and April to calculate winter averages, and then caps each customer’s summer sewer rates at 120 percent of that figure.

HU customers who use a great deal of water outdoors year-round might consider an outdoor irrigation meter, says Customer Service Manager Terri Harris. The cost to install one-inch irrigation meter is $275. However, there is no sewer charge for water received through an irrigation meter.