Frequently Asked Questions – Combined sewer area
Richmond Heights: January 30, 2014
Q: Is there a way for me to find out where the overflows are in my community?
A: All overflows are signed. We can get each city a map of overflows.
Q: How do you determine/prioritize buyout properties?
A: Decisions are based on topography. We consider properties that experience basement backups due to sewer problems. We also look at our customer service records. Overland flooding is a different issue. Our buyouts are intended to remedy an unacceptable level of sewer service that cannot be solved by a traditional project. These issues are due to topography, and occur only in extreme cases. Thus, the solution is to remove the home from the problem area.
Q: Could our staff talk to you about which properties are on your [buy-out] list?
Q: Will the majority of tunnel work be underground?
A: Yes, the majority of the work will be underground. There will be some surface disruption around drop shafts which are locations where supplies and equipment will be placed for work underground.
Q: Will the tunnels that exist today remain in use?
A: Yes, the tunnels that exist today will continue to manage daily flow. The new deeper tunnels will store and then move water during rainy weather.
Q: Where will the material go from digging the tunnels?
A: Generally, we leave it up to our contractors to decide. It is part of their bid. They have to find a buyer for it. There will be considerable truck traffic at times to remove material from work sites. MSD is committed to robust communications with these areas so they know what to expect and when.
Q: Regarding the increase in sewer bills, will it go to pay off bonds or fund operations?
A: MSD’s bill has two parts: a wastewater charge and a very small flat stormwater fee. The wastewater rates fund operational needs, capital needs and debt service to bonds. Bond proceeds fund the capital plan and nothing else. The dramatic increase in rates is due to both capital needs and to debt service associated with the capital plan. Year-by-year, rates fund more debt service. Although rates will increase, voters chose to fund improvements through bonds rather than cash (pay-as-you-go) to minimize rate increases.
Q: Can you explain MSD’s property tax?
A: Stormwater funds are generated by a very small flat fee on each MSD bill and property taxes that raise $20-$25 million annually. Past estimates indicate the true need for stormwater services to be $80 million per year, based upon what is considered “stormwater.” We cannot meet this need with the current tax structure.
Q: MSD Project Clear infrastructure is dramatically different in different areas. Are the rate increases evenly distributed across the District?
A: MSD Project Clear is about reducing overflows. Overflows are a community issue; they occur throughout the District. Everyone is charged based upon water usage. All customers pay the same amount for a defined amount of water usage, with additional charges to industrial/commercial customers.
Q: Will MSD incentivize stormwater solutions (“green solutions”) implemented by individual homeowners?
A: There was such an initiative under the impervious rate program so it was discontinued when MSD stopped collecting the impervious charge. Perhaps that kind of program would be part of a new stormwater solution, whatever that may be.
Q: Is there information on MSD’s low-income program on your website?
A: Yes. There is an application on our website that participants in the program must complete annually. See www.stlmsd.com/customer-service/rate-information/qualifying-assistance. Also, MSD has a separate program to help low-income customers move from septic tanks to MSD’s public sewer system. It is called the Supplemental Environmental Program (SEP). For applications, contact MSD Project Clear, 314-68-6260.
MSD: January 22, 2014
Q: MSD doesn’t come to the [City of St. Louis] Board of Aldermen for approval?
A: Correct, governance is by executives of the City and County via our Board of Directors.
Q: It seems like MSD’s approach is still reactive, addressing problems after they occur, rather than proactive.
A: Our goal is to identify sewers that are in bad shape and fix them before they collapse. System performance is improving. MSD’s proactive approach to system maintenance has been in place since 2007. In the last four years alone, basement backups have been reduced by two-thirds and sewer overflows have been reduced by fifty-percent.
Q: What influence does MSD have with railroads to keep their right-of-way clean?
A: MSD reaches out to them to ask for their help. MSD holds no authority over railroads.
Q: Regarding the River Des Peres tunnel work, what will be seen on the surface?
A: While most of the work will be underground, there will be some surface disruption around drop shafts which are locations where supplies and equipment will be placed for work underground. There will also be considerable truck traffic at times to remove material from work sites. MSD and its contractors will communicate with the community in advance to make them aware of our work and its impact on the public.
Comment: I am disappointed that we aren’t thinking about moving the River Des Peres back to a natural ecosystem and frustrated that MSD has not been more aggressive with regulation of development.
Response: MSD does not have the authority to regulate the development of things like parking lots and buildings. Regarding the future of the River Des Peres, the first step is removing sewage and that is what MSD Project Clear is about. The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a study that will evaluate options for long-term management of River Des Peres from Forest Park to the Lemay Treatment Plan. MSD’s funds are concentrated on meeting wastewater regulatory requirements. Beyond that, improvements to River Des Peres are likely to require Federal funding to implement. Once the Corps finishes their study, the community will have a better sense of what the options are and can begin to plan accordingly. MSD will be part of those discussions but it will be a community effort.
Comment: On transportation projects, the mandatory federal design process includes an environmental impact study. When something similar was proposed in the City of St. Louis, developers were very unhappy.
Response: It is a struggle in many communities to balance regulation and development.