WEST WILDWOOD – Mayor Matt Ksiazek said the borough has been steadily working on the problem of stormwater infiltration of the sanitary sewer system since it was the focus of a report about two years ago.
The mayor said at the Friday, Feb. 2, Board of Commissioners meeting that the borough has been repairing manholes, installing new lines and taking other measures.
“We are slowly fixing it, piece by piece,” Ksiazek said.
Clerk/Administrator Donna Frederick said the borough has invested more than $4 million in repairs over the last several years. As of the Feb. 2 meeting, the town has repaired over half of the manholes in the borough.
Frederick said once the borough “gets a handle on” the intrusion and infiltration of stormwater into the sanitary sewer system, individual sewer charges might improve.
Ksiazek said the problem has been discussed for a long time and that Commissioner Joe Segrest indicated the seriousness of the problem in a January 2022 report.
“Commissioner Segrest loses sleep over this,” the mayor said.
The discussion of the sanitary sewer system and rates charged to users came in light of a letter published in the Herald in which the writer complained about West Wildwood’s billing system, which uses a flat rate, as opposed to billing by water quantity used.
Deputy Clerk Carl O’Hara said at the Feb. 2 meeting that four of the 16 municipalities in Cape May County charge a flat rate for sewerage.
“We’re not alone,” O’Hara said.
Three large communities, he said, don’t have a municipal sewer system. Five towns base their sewer bills on water consumption. Two towns, he said, charge a flat rate for both water and sewer, and have excess use charges. The two other municipalities were not accounted for.
Frederick said that by charging for sewerage based on water use, her bill would decrease by $500. However, she said, a family of five would pay an estimated $3,000 more if billed by water use. She added that whether people pay a flat rate or by use, they would still have to pay a certain amount for fixed costs.
The commissioners took the occasion of the Feb. 2 meeting to tell homeowners how they could help bring down sewer costs. Ksiazek said sump pumps should not pump flood water into a sanitary sewer line.
“It’s illegal to do so,” he said.
The extra water in sanitary lines equates to higher charges from the county utilities authority, he said.
The mayor also said homeowners should locate their sewer cleanout lines and see that they have a cap. Some lines have been hard to locate due to raised property levels and landscaping. He said an uncapped cleanout line can result in floodwater going into the sanitary sewers, resulting in higher costs.
In a related matter, the commissioners introduced Ordinance 620 (2024), which says, “Sewer charges for service shall commence on the first day of the quarter immediately following the user’s physical connection to the borough wastewater management system.” At the previous workshop meeting, it was noted that property owners were not being charged for sewer service until they received their certificate of occupancy, which in some cases meant the customer could be connected to municipal sewer for two years before the certificate of occupancy was issued.
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