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South Salt Lake Journal

Central Valley Water Reclamation budget increases by more than 5%

Dec 13, 2021 02:59PM ● By Bill Hardesty

CVWRF passed the 2022 budget with a 5.31% increase. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility (CVWRF) approved their 2022 budget with little fanfare Oct. 27 including no comments during the public hearing. The budget included a 5.31% increase.

Why should anyone care?

Because the CVWRF budget is the first budget domino that flows upstream to impact taxpayers.

The flow

CVWRF, next to I-15 and north of 3300 South, is owned by seven entities: Cottonwood Improvement District, Granger-Hunter Improvement District, Kearns Improvement District, Mt. Olympus Improvement District, Murray City, City of South Salt Lake and Taylorsville-Bennion Improvement District.

Roughly speaking, for SSL residents north of 3300 South, the city is their sewer entity. For SSL residents south of 3300 South, Mt. Olympus Improvement District is their sewer entity. This division is also true for water usage.

"CVWRF costs for operation and capital improvements are paid for by the seven agencies based on their percent ownership in the facility. When our costs increase, that increase is passed through to the seven entities that own CVWRF in proportion to their ownership percentage," Phil Heck, general manager, said.

The percentage of ownership is determined by how much each entity uses the facility. The ownership percentage might change each month depending on such variables as growth within the entity. For example, as SSL grows, their ownership percentage will increase because more people are flushing toilets. The shares always equal 100%.

The percentage formula is based on the amount of flow, BOD load, and the solids load sent to CVWRF each month. BOD stands for Biochemical Oxygen Demand. 

"It is the quantity of oxygen required by microorganisms for stabilizing, or using as food, the organic materials in wastewater in a specific time and at a specific temperature (usually five days at 20 degrees Celsius)," Heck said. "There is a standardized laboratory test for measuring BOD in wastewater, and the BOD concentration is a measure of the strength of wastewater. The concentration of BOD in wastewater can be converted to pounds of BOD using the flow, and this is referred to as the BOD load. The CVWRF plant normally receives around 100,000 pounds of BOD per day in the influent flow."

The importance of BOD is if it is discharged into the Jordan River, "it will consume all of the dissolved oxygen in the water which will kill fish and other aquatic organisms." 

"Supplying oxygen to remove the BOD is one of the major costs for treating wastewater because it requires a lot of equipment, tanks and energy. CVWRF measures the BOD load discharged to the plant from each member entity and bills them for their share of the cost of treatment," Heck said.

The term solids or Total Suspended Solids (TSS) refer to the amount of insoluble solids floating in the wastewater. 

"Removing, treating and disposing of TSS is another of the major cost factors in wastewater treatment," Heck said. "The solids are separated from the liquid in primary clarifiers, treated in anaerobic digesters, then they are separated from the remaining liquid by dewatering and hauled to an agricultural land application site. CVWRF measures TSS load discharged to the plant from each member entity and bills for their share of the cost."

Currently, Mt. Olympus has the largest owner percentage, and SSL has the lowest. See the chart for a complete list.

Using the current percentages, Mt. Olympus estimated contribution for 2022 will be $44,239,107, and South Salt Lake's contribution is estimated at $7,791,135.

Now that CVWRF's budget passed, each entity has started to work on its budget. It isn't a stretch to believe that if CVWRF's budget increased by 5.31%, the entities' budget will increase to cover their increased costs and CVWRF's costs.

The last domino falls with a possible increase in sewer fees for residents and business owners.

CVWRF budget

One critical driver of the budget is personal wages and benefits. The 2022 budget contains a 5.2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for all employees. The CVWRF budget report explained the need for the COLA by pointing out, "Over the last 12 months, the CPI-U (Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers) rose 5.2%. Food prices increased 4.6%. Energy prices jumped 24.9%, largely the result of an increase in the price of gasoline. The index for all items less food and energy increased 3.9% over the year." 

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in October a 6.2% increase year over year.

A bright spot in the budget is that 2022 is the last year with high capital expenses. As a result, the capital budget decreased by $3.5 million from the 2021 level ($128 million to $124.5 million). It is projected that this budget line will continue to fall to under $40 million in 2023 and less than $20 million in 2025.