Highway widening projects could mean rate increases for water customers

I-270

LAUREL, Md. (WDVM) — A decades-old agreement between WSSC Water and the State Highway Administration could mean bad news for your water bill.

“The agreement basically says that when WSSC needs to relocate water mains that are in the right of way of State Highway Administration, WSSC pays for the cost,” said Montgomery County Council Vice President Tom Hucker.

That Memorandum of Understanding was first enacted back in 1958– and more than 60 years later it could mean WSSC ratepayers foot the multi-billion dollar bill associated with relocating miles of water mains as part of the I-270 and I-495 Widening Project.

The debt could impact customers for decades to come.

“It’s a forty-year impact, we’d issue $100 million in debt every year for ten years. That tenth year still goes up another ten years, you’ve got forty years worth of impact,” said WSSC Water’s chief financial officer Patricia Colihan.

WSSC Water briefed committees from both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties on Thursday, giving the councilmembers a preliminary look at the potential cost for customers.

“An average customer with WSSC Water is a three-member household using 165 gallons per day, 55 gallons per person a day. Continue to add those costs every single year, that’s over $2,000 for our customers over forty years,” Colihan said.

Customers could see a 277% increase over the next forty years, it’s a statistic that worries Montgomery County Council Vice President Tom Hucker.

“Any given day, they have thousands of people in our area that are facing disconnection, or their accounts are in arrears or whatever, those people can’t afford two thousand dollars more on their water bill,” Hucker said.

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