Capital Region Water’s Board of Directors voted to approve 2021 budgets and rates during its public monthly meeting Tuesday, November 24, presenting a plan that ensures compliance with state and federal clean water obligations, continues investments in systemwide infrastructure improvements, provides for an expansion of customer assistance programs and works to avoid rate spikes in subsequent years.

Drinking water rates will increase by 2% from the current $9.84 to $10.04 per 1,000 gallons with a monthly “Ready to Serve” charge of $7.93 for a standard 5/8” sized tap. Wastewater rates for Harrisburg city residents will increase by 3% from the current $7.99 per 1,000 gallons to $8.23 per 1,000 gallons. There will not be any change to the stormwater fee for Harrisburg residents. The average residential property will continue to see a flat fee of $6.15 per month.

“Capital Region Water has and will continue to make prudent financial decisions that balance the need for critical infrastructure investments with the affordability challenges facing many of our customers,” said Capital Region Water CEO Charlotte Katzenmoyer. “This past year has presented unprecedented challenges due to the ongoing pandemic and I am extremely proud of the work this staff has done to adapt and adjust. This budget is yet another reflection of Capital Region Water’s commitment to customer satisfaction and stewardship of our community’s water systems.”

Under the new rate structure, the average Harrisburg customer consuming 45,000 gallons of water annually will pay approximately $1.80 per month more for water and wastewater services. Capital Region Water’s drinking water and wastewater rates and the stormwater fee continue to be comparable to other utilities in the region.

As a municipal authority, Capital Region Water, which is audited annually by an independent financial auditing firm, does not earn a profit and invests its revenue into operating and improving the Harrisburg area’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.

For more information on the 2021 drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater budgets and rates, please visit https://capitalregionwater.com/resources/financial-reports/.

Capital Region Water has been selected to participate in the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS), a program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Testing wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus causing COVID-19) can serve as early detection method for disease as well as an indicator for the significance of COVID-19 in a community. Capital Region Water will participate in this exciting collaboration free of charge. Data collected will ultimately be entered into a national database to summarize and interpret information for public health action. Participation in a national database will ensure data comparability across regions.

“This is a significant opportunity for Capital Region Water and the communities we serve,” said Jess Rosentel, Director of Operations at Capital Region Water. “Because the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be shed by individuals with or without symptoms of infection, wastewater can serve as a public health indicator. We’re grateful to have been selected and look forward to contributing samples.”

Capital Region Water is not new to wastewater testing. Since May, the water services provider has participated in a similar wastewater epidemiology program with Biobot Analytics, which includes researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The weekly testing was made possible thanks in part to the generous cooperation with the City of Harrisburg but will be coming to an end as this new testing begins.

AquaVitas, the organization selected to perform testing on behalf of the NWSS, plans to begin testing water from Capital Region Water’s Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility in the next few weeks. Phase 1 will last six weeks and sample wastewater from treatment plants that serve 10% of the U.S. population. In an optional Phase 2, additional treatment plants will be enrolled to cover at least 30% of the U.S. population and continue testing for an additional nine weeks.

For more information about wastewater testing and Capital Region Water’s role, please tune into WITF Smart Talk, Wed., Dec. 16 where Charlotte Katzenmoyer, CEO, and Jess Rosentel, Director of Operations, will discuss about the opportunity.

Capital Region Water will present proposed 2021 drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater budgets and rates to the Board of Directors for consideration during a public meeting beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 12, 2020.

“Staff looks forward to presenting a budget with the resources to ensure safe and reliable services for our community,” said Capital Region Water CEO Charlotte Katzenmoyer. “While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented some uncertainties, Capital Region Water strives to balance systemwide infrastructure improvements with the affordability challenges facing many of our customers.”

The 2021 proposed budget priorities and initiatives include:

  • Finalization of the Long-Term Control Plan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to improve local water quality;
  • Investment in critical infrastructure including $13 million in capital improvement projects for the drinking water system, $19 million in capital improvement projects for the wastewater system, and almost $3 million in green stormwater infrastructure improvements;
  • Expansion of a Customer Assistance Program; and
  • Partnership to continue wastewater testing for COVID-19.

As a municipal authority, Capital Region Water does not earn a profit and invests its revenue into operating and improving the Harrisburg area’s water systems.

Capital Region Water’s Board of Directors will meet virtually for the Special Board Meeting. Customers are encouraged to attend and provide comments. Meeting details can be found at https://capitalregionwater.com/meetings-reports/. The Board of Directors is scheduled to approve 2021 budgets and rates at their Regular Meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, November 24.

On October 19th, Capital Region Water and the City of Harrisburg began the fifth and final Parks Improvement Project in an ongoing series of upgrades. Thanks in part to funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and PENNVEST, this collaboration will renovate the 4th & Dauphin Park with the design to capture and manage stormwater from the surrounding area.  In addition to improved site amenities including concrete sidewalks, ADA parking stalls, and new playground equipment, construction will include green stormwater management elements. Rain gardens, a pervious basketball court, and restored vegetation will complement less visible infrastructure improvements such as drainage structures, catch basins, and storm sewer pipes.

These projects are part of Capital Region Water’s City Beautiful H2O Program to renew aging infrastructure, improve the health of local waterways, and reduce combined sewer overflows. Over half of Harrisburg’s sewer pipes are part of a combined sewer system, where polluted stormwater runoff and sewage are conveyed in the same pipe for treatment. In wet weather, stormwater flows exceed system capacity, discharging the mixture into Paxton Creek or the Susquehanna River. In addition to the combined system, Capital Region Water is also responsible for the stormwater-wastewater system that uses separate stormwater piping from those pipes that carry sanitary flow to the Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility. The entire system (combined or separate) requires stormwater management practices to comply with regulatory requirements, including but not limited to pollutant reduction plans necessary to improve water quality in Paxton Creek, the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake Bay.

When completed, the parks will still be maintained by the City of Harrisburg, but the green stormwater infrastructure will be handled by Capital Region Water to ensure proper operation for stormwater management. Construction is slated to be completed spring/summer of 2021.

The green infrastructure elements at work in our local parks help to capture runoff before entering the combined sewer systems. Residents can expect to see ongoing infrastructure improvements throughout the City. This month, Capital Region Water has implemented a stormwater fee in the City of Harrisburg. The stormwater fee is the most equitable approach to address stormwater issues as it is an assessment of the amount of stormwater runoff from an individual property. It is necessary for the overall goal of improving the health of local waterways and reducing combined sewer overflows. The stormwater fee will appear on monthly bills issued on October 25th, 2020.  Residents interested in experiencing completed park improvement projects are encouraged to visit the Cloverly Heights, Penn & Sayford, Royal Terrace, or Norwood & Holly Park.

Capital Region Water begins self-performing street sweeping in the City of Harrisburg today, August 3rd. Residents and visitors can expect Capital Region Water staff and three-wheel mechanical sweepers to maneuver neighborhood streets. Contracted services will no longer be utilized. The decision to expedite this responsibility comes on the heels of postponed service due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent poor performance by the contractor hired by Capital Region Water. Capital Region Water’s operations will ensure that street sweeping remains at full capacity, and responsive to the needs of our community.

“Street sweeping is one of many proactive measures that Capital Region Water invests in to prevent dirt and other debris from accumulating on streets and washing into local waterways,” said Capital Region Water CEO Charlotte Katzenmoyer. “With the self-performing operations underway, Capital Region Water can better prevent pollutants from entering the Susquehanna River and nearby creeks and streams. Thus, supporting the greater City Beautiful H2O program for clean water and community beautification.”

Recently, members of the streets team have been hired and completed essential training. Staff from Capital Region Water’s field services division are also available to supplement this team and assist as needed throughout the transition. The Streets Supervisor will be onsite to monitor and assist in ensuring a high quality of service. Capital Region Water is committed to the continuous improvement of these operations, which includes on-the-job training necessary for current and future staff.

Keeping our city beautiful is a collective effort. Everyone has a shared responsibility for clean streets, clean water, and beautiful neighborhoods. Residents can help by removing debris and litter from the top of storm drains. This will help prevent street flooding and reduce the long-term costs of operating the community’s infrastructure. Never pollute the city with litter, and if you see litter, take the time to pick it up. Join the citywide “Stop the Drop” campaign and help Harrisburg become litter-free.

The City of Harrisburg will continue to maintain responsibility for snow removal, leaf collection, waste management, and removal of large debris. Park Harrisburg and the City of Harrisburg administer related parking enforcement. Street sweeping follows the street cleaning schedule as posted.

Customers can contact Capital Region Water with questions or to report a problem with street sweeping at 888-510-0606 or by emailing info@capitalregionwater.com.

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