Takeover of MS4 rainwater quality program to bring changes
COVINGTON, Ky. – The City of Covington’s takeover of a limited part of storm water management in the city will change three things about the small monthly fee assessed residents for that management:
- Residents will pay 10 percent less than they currently do.
- Residents will be billed once a year instead of monthly.
- And funds paid by Covington residents will be spent on projects in Covington instead of outside the city.
“Better customer service for the taxpayers of Covington – that’s the entire motivation for what we’re doing in taking over the MS4 storm water quality program and the fee that supports it,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “We want the problems in Covington addressed.”
The Covington Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night approved the creation of the fee, officially called the Storm Water and Flood Management Fee, effective March 1. It replaces the fee that was built into customers’ monthly sanitary and storm sewer bill from Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky.
Going forward, the fee for both homeowners and commercial accounts in Covington will be 10 percent less than SD1’s fee, although they will be billed differently.
Homeowners will pay $4.54 a month and be billed annually on a calendar year basis. In normal years, the bill will be due by March 31. Because this year is already under way, in 2021 there will be two one-time changes: Residents will pay for only 10 months instead of 12, and the due date will pushed back by a month. (Also pushed back by a month this year will be the City’s annual trash and recycling collection fee.)
For owners of commercial property, the monthly MS4 fee will depend on the size and characteristics of their property, specifically the size of the roof and the amount of (impervious) pavement, similar to how SD1 set the fee. Bills will be sent quarterly for the three months that just ended (i.e. “quarterly in arrears”). This year, the first bill assessed at the end of the second quarter (April-June) will also include the month of March and thus be for four months.
The change comes because the City and SD1 agreed in December to part ways on joint management of the MS4 program and let the City assume sole responsibility.
“MS4” stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System and refers to the system of streets, curbs, gutters, catch basins, storm drains, ditches, etc. that collect rain and channel it toward streams, rivers and ultimately the oceans. The MS4 permit is a narrow subset of the federal Clean Water Act that governs the quality – not the quantity – of rain run-off, specifically pollution and sediment.
That fee paid by Covington property owners raises about $1.6 million a year. Covington leaders say the expense of administering the MS4 program constitutes only a small percentage of that amount. They intend to use the bulk of the remaining funds to address public health issues caused by polluted water that backs up onto streets and into basements during torrential rain.
In separating from SD1 on that requirement, Covington has joined the Cities of Florence, Cold Spring, and Walton in managing their own MS4 programs.
“The regional model sounds good in theory but over the last two decades it hasn’t worked for Covington (in addressing these public health hazards),” Mayor Meyer has previously said.
As they did when they started the long process of the MS4 separation, Covington leaders continue to stress several points:
- SD1 will continue to oversee the City’s sanitary sewer system – or wastewater that comes from showers, toilets, sinks, and other parts of a building’s plumbing. It will also oversee combined sewers. (In older cities like Covington, sewer lines often carry both rain runoff and sanitary sewage. That is true throughout downtown.)
- Covington will continue to work in partnership with SD1 on issues related to sanitary sewer systems and combined sewer systems, including contributing money toward infrastructure projects in those realms.
- The takeover of the MS4 permit will not be the end-all, be-all solution to problems of street flooding and sewer drain backups that sometimes happen during torrential rains.
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