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Fayette County mulls water rate hike to pay for cleaner water

Facing a critical $9.3 million project to improve both of Fayette County’s water treatment plants, county officials are beginning to look at a potential rate increase for water system customers.

The county system supplies water to all of Peachtree City and Tyrone as well as county residents outside the cities. Fayetteville has its own water system.

The potential rate increase discussion is in the preliminary stages at this point, as staff will present several different funding options to the Fayette County Commission at a future date, according to County Manager Jack Krakeel.

The improvements are necessary to meet new federal clean water standards that will take effect next year, Krakeel said. The work is aimed at improving the removal of total organic carbon (TOC) from raw water that enters the water treatment plants, Krakeel said.

Last year the county once violated that existing TOC limits at one of the treatment plants, and a notice was published to notify water system customers, Krakeel noted. The new TOC requirements are more stringent, Krakeel said.

TOC in water comes from decaying natural organic matter and from synthetic sources, including detergents, pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and industrial chemicals.

Among the options being hashed out by county staff is the possibility of pursuing low-interest loans from the state. Those loans have a $3 million cap but the county believes it may qualify for two of those loans due to the work being conducted on two different water treatment plants, Krakeel said.

There are also other options including internal financing, Krakeel added.

If the loans are sought, it is possible the county might consider rolling back the rate increases once the loans are paid off, Krakeel said, but that will be a decision for the county commission to make.

The loans would be financed over a period of up to 20 years.

County finance staff will look at the current base and variable water rates to determine what if any changes are needed, Krakeel said.

“At this point we have done some preliminary work, but we are not yet at the point to forward a recommendation to the board,” Krakeel said.

The county water system’s annual budget for this fiscal year is $13.17 million. That means the plant upgrade project equal to roughly 70 percent of the entire water budget for this year.

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