Fulton County proposes raising water rates for the next three years

Fulton County plans to raise water rates to pay for improvements to sewage treatment plants. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM AJC FILE PHOTO
Fulton County plans to raise water rates to pay for improvements to sewage treatment plants. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM AJC FILE PHOTO

Fulton County is considering raising water rates by 5 percent annually for the next three years.

County commissioners began raising rates in 2017, when they approved a 5 percent annual increase through 2019 to pay for more than half a billion in improvements to sewage treatment plants and other infrastructure. The next round of increases was anticipated — but the proposal is higher than what was originally expected.

David Clark, Fulton's public works director, said he initially intended to raise rates by 4 percent a year from 2020 through 2022. But the cost of expanding the Big Creek treatment plant in Roswell came to $300 million, about $50 million more than expected, so the increase is needed to cover the additional expense.

For the average resident, the new rates will mean in 2022, water will cost nearly $20 more a month than it did before the increases began two years ago. A typical household, which uses about 6,000 gallons of water monthly, will pay $76.99 a month. Now, that family pays $66.43 a month, Clark said. In 2016, before the increases began, water costs averaged $57.36 each month.

Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed increases at two public hearings at the end of the month.

Even with the increase, Clark said, Fulton water users have among the cheapest rates in the area. Now, only Cobb County water costs less than Fulton. Clark anticipates in 2022 Fulton will have the fourth-cheapest water in metro Atlanta.

Still, this may not be the last rate increase in the foreseeable future.

“We’re going to revisit it in another three years,” Clark said. “There are indications that we won’t need to increase it, but we don’t know until we get to that point.”

By then, he said, the Big Creek construction should largely finished, so the costs should be better known. One reason another increase might be necessary, though, is if more capacity is needed at the Camp Creek facility in south Fulton.

The Big Creek expansion is needed because that treatment plant is at capacity, Clark said. Without the work to expand its capacity to 38 million gallons a day, from 24 million gallons a day, the county's sewage system would not be able to support new development or redevelopment in north Fulton. Additionally, the expansion will be used to improve the technology at the plant, so cleaner water will be discharged into the Chattahoochee River at the end of the process.

Big Creek is the second plant to be upgraded. Upgrades to the Little River plant in Woodstock, which expand its capacity to 2.6 million gallons a day from 1 million gallons a day, are expected to be completed next summer.

If approved, the rate increases would go into effect Jan. 1.

The public meetings will take place Sept. 23 at the South Fulton Service Center at 5710 Stonewall Tell Road in College Park; and Sept. 24 at the North Fulton Service Center at 7741 Roswell Road NE in Atlanta. Both meetings will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.