- Sewer Service Rate Increases
- Facility Upgrades
- Sewer Main Upgrades
- Sewer Lateral Inspection Program
- Other District Policies and Operations
Q1: Why are rate increases needed?
A. The District needs to increase revenue to fund a major repair and upgrade project – the Secondary Treatment Plant Upgrade and Recycled Water Expansion Project. This project will replace, repair, modernize, and improve aging facilities, some of which are over 50 years old. An upgraded treatment plant and expanded recycled water facility will better serve our customers, help protect the environment, meet increasingly-stringent regulatory requirements, and ensure that our facilities continue providing exceptional service and high-quality technical processes, for decades to come. Click here to learn more about this major improvement project.
Q2: Has the District been sensitive to customers’ current economic circumstances?
A. Yes. With current economic conditions affecting many of our customers, new rates are proposed to set at the lowest level possible while providing sufficient funding for current and future operation and maintenance and capital improvement budgets. The District’s rates currently are among the lowest in the region, and even with the proposed increases, the rates are expected to remain below average.
Q3: How are residential rates structured?
A. Rates are designed to cover the actual cost of service. Each residential unit is charged the basic flat rate. This applies to single-family homes, apartments, condominiums and other multi-family dwellings, and mobile home and trailer parks. For rooming houses, the basic flat rate is applied to each of the first two rooms used for renting and one-quarter of the basic rate for each additional rented room.
For purposes of rates, motels are considered residential. Each motel unit with a kitchen is charged the basic rate, and each motel unit without a kitchen is charged one-half the basic rate.
Q4: What are the current residential rates?
A. The current basic residential rate for 2022-23 is $1,150 per sanitary unit.
Q5: What are the current non-residential rates?
A. Increases for non-residential rates are proportional to the rise in residential rates.
Q6: How are non-residential rates structured?
A. Rates are structured individually for each type of non-residential use. To determine an estimated cost to collect and treat wastewater from a non-residential customer, the District calculates the cost based on water usage and a strength factor, which is an average cost to treat wastewater from a particular type of non-residential customer. Thus, a low water user would pay less than a high-water user in the same category of non-residential customers with the same strength factor. And, for two non-residential customers with the same water use, the one with the higher strength factor would pay more.
Q7: What calculations are used to determine non-residential rates?
A. For water use, the District obtains an average of winter and summer water usage for each non-residential customer from the Marin Municipal Water District. Excluded is water used solely for irrigation and recycled water that does not enter the District’s sewer system, i.e. water not used for toilet flushing, laundry, commercial car washes, etc.
The average water usage is converted into sanitary units. Each 20 hundred cubic feet of water is equal to one sanitary unit.
A strength factor is applied to each non-residential customer based on the type of use. Users such as office buildings, retail, churches, halls, public agencies, laundromats, service stations, medical offices, barber and beauty shops, car washes, convalescent hospitals, hospitals and the like are given a strength factor is 1.0. High strength users, such as restaurants/cafes, bakeries, mortuaries, hotels with restaurants, and markets with disposals, have a strength factor of 2.4. Mixed uses with low and high strengths are given a 2.0 strength factor. The strength factor is not applied to residences or schools.
The non-residential rate is determined by multiplying the number of sanitary units by the strength factor, and by the basic residential rate.
For information on the specific rates for individual non-residential customers, contact the District office at 415-472-1734 and ask for Dale McDonald.
Q8: Does the District apply a “Fairness Principal” to the way rates are structured?
A. Yes. Customers pay only for the actual cost of their service, based on the amount of wastewater generated and the strength factor. Rates are based on wastewater typically generated by a single dwelling unit each day. Sewage from residential customers is the standard against which higher strength commercial and industrial sewage discharges are measured.
Q9: What are the major benefits from a rate increase?
A. District rates provide for continued effective and efficient high-quality and reliable wastewater collection, treatment and recycling, protection of the environment and the public health, compliance with ever-increasing state and federal regulations, continued sound fiscal practices, and funding of the Secondary Treatment Plant Upgrade and Recycled Water Expansion Project.
Q10: How has the District cut costs to minimize the size of the proposed rate increase?
A. The District staff always looks for ways to increase efficiency, reduce supply costs, cut energy use, and other steps. The District utilizes a very efficient, cross-trained workforce.
Q11: How do I offer comments, ask questions or protest proposed rate increases?
A. When a rate change is proposed, all property owners are notified and a public hearing is scheduled. During this process, to ask questions, make comments, or file a protest, you may:
- ADDRESS THE DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS at a formal public hearing on the proposed rates, to be held at an announced future date, at the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District, 101 Lucas Valley Road, Suite 300, San Rafael.
- CALL THE DISTRICT office at 415-472-1734.
- SEND A FAX to 415-499-7715.
- SEND AN E-MAIL to firstname.lastname@example.org
- SEND MAIL to 101 Lucas Valley Road, Suite 300, San Rafael, CA 94903
Q12: If enough property owners protest a proposed rate increase, does that mean the rates would not be increased?
A. Yes. If written protests against the proposed sewer service charge rates are presented by a majority of owners of parcels affected, the District will not approve the charge.
Q13: What is the required form that protests must take?
A. Protests against the proposed rate increase must be submitted in writing, must identify the owner(s) of the property or properties for which the protest is entered, and be signed by the property owner.
Q14: What is the condition of the sanitary system, and are upgrades and replacements really needed?
A. For many years the District has been making continual, substantial investments to improve its aging facilities. But much of the equipment and facilities have reached the end of their useful life, and continued investment is needed to modernize and ensure continual, efficient operation.
The District previously formulated a minimum, responsible five-year budget, which takes everything into consideration, provides for no more than is absolutely necessary, and calls for the required increases in rates.
Q16: How did the District decide what projects to include in the upgrade program?
A. To accomplish the upgrade efficiently and at the lowest cost, the District carried out an extensive system-wide analysis that considered every aspect of its operation: facilities, staffing, engineering, finance and regulatory requirements. From this analysis, the District developed a detailed plan over a five-year period that prioritizes the most important projects that must be completed and identifies the minimum charges needed to fund them.
Q17: How will the upgrade program be financed?
A. The program is largely being funded on a pay-as-you-go approach with revenue from rates. A few major items will be funded through bonds or loans. The more costly items, and items that last for decades, are often financed to decrease the fiscal impact on current customers and spread those costs over time onto future customers, since they will benefit also.
Q18: In general, what will the upgrades involve?
A. The improvements involve the sewer pipeline collection system, pump stations and force mains, treatment plant, cooperative water recycling, reclamation area, and general upgrades and repairs.
The major upgrade is the Secondary Treatment Plant Upgrade and Recycled Water Expansion Project, which provides for many more benefits, including:
- Expansion of the treatment plant’s capacity
- Construction of a new primary effluent pump station and two secondary clarifiers
- Expansion of the recycled water facility’s capacity from 1.4 to over 5 million gallons per day (MGD)
- Rerouting of the force main pipeline
- Realignment of the treatment plant’s perimeter road
- Upgrades to the electrical systems at the plant, and addition of a new standby generator
- Installation of a new utility transformer, and realignment of power poles
- Upgrading of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system
- Modifications to the existing disinfection system
- Other related work such as grading, fencing, pipelines, landscaping, and paving
Click here to learn more about the Secondary Treatment Plant Upgrade and Recycled Water Expansion Project.
Q19: What projects will involve the sewer pipeline collection system?
A. These are the principal projects:
- Rehabilitation of 3,696 feet of sewer main and lower lateral pipeline each year.
- A 10-year program to boost sewer main capacity by increasing the size of 1,733 feet of pipeline annually.
- A sewer lateral inspection ordinance to identify lateral issues, and a sewer lateral assistance loan program helps homeowners pay for repairs of their sewer laterals.
Q20: Have all the sewer mains been inspected and scheduled for repair?
A. All the sewer mains have been inspected by video and smoke-tested. Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District is the only sanitary agency in Marin County to do so. Although about 7 percent of the mains need replacement, the District will replace only seven-tenths of one percent with the current five-year budget to lower costs. Although it will take 100 years to replace all the pipes at this rate, replacing all the pipes rapidly would be too costly.
Q121: How will the sewer mains be replaced?
A. Clay pipes will be replaced with modern HDPE pipe using a pipe-bursting method that will minimize the need to dig up the sewer lines. Direct burial may be utilized in certain projects as needed.
Q22: Is it more cost-effective to repair rather than replace sewer lines?
A. It is actually more costly to continue to repair lines that have reached the end of their useful life than to replace them with new lines made of improved materials less likely to develop problems that would result in spills.
Q23: What is the sewer lateral inspection program?
A. In November, 2019 the District Board of Directors adopted the Sewer Lateral Ordinance. This ordinance requires an evaluation of each residential property’s sewer lateral for condition and potential illegal connections. It’s part of the District’s philosophy of environmental stewardship and its focus on efficient infrastructure and operations. The ordinance will help keep your wastewater rates as low as possible while protecting the environment.
Q24: What is the typical cost to repair a sewer lateral?
A. About $6,000-$10,000, depending on where it is located and whether it is under pavement. It could be more or less depending on circumstances.
Q25: What is the Sewer Lateral Assistance Program?
A. Repair or replacement of the sewer lateral is the responsibility of the property owner – but we can help! The District’s Lateral Replacement Loan Program helps homeowners finance the work with a low interest (2%) loan of up to $10,000. For more information, visit the District’s “Sewer Lateral Assistance” web page.
Q26: Why should sewer laterals be kept in good repair?
A. Improperly maintained sewer laterals can cause sewer spills or backups, and can also allow large amounts of stormwater to seep into the system from the soil causing excessive wastewater flow. When an unusually excessive flow occurs, it increases the potential for sewer overflow spills, and requires the treatment plant to incur higher processing costs.
Q27: What projects will involve pump stations and force mains?
A. These are the principal projects:
- Equipping of 25 pump stations with redundant alarms and level control systems.
- Replacement of aging portions of force mains.
Q28: Would increased use of solar power in the treatment plant help reduce energy cost and thus lower the cost of upgrading the plant?
A. No. The District’s large solar facility, the largest in Marin County (2,940 panels, generating 850,000 kWh/year), provides nearly all the plant’s energy needs. Increased amounts of solar power would not provide any significant savings.
Q29: What projects will involve the Reclamation Area?
A. Plans include a gradual increase of maintenance of the District’s Reclamation Area’s levees and Miller Creek maintenance.
Q30: What is the District’s recycled water program?
A. The District completed its new recycled water facility to provide North Marin Water District (NMWD) water for landscape irrigation uses. The two agencies celebrated their new partnership with a dedication ceremony for the completed Recycled Water Treatment Facility on September 25, 2012. As part of the Secondary Treatment Plant Upgrade and Recycled Water Expansion Project, the recycled water facility capacity will be expanded from 1.4 to over 5 million gallons per day.
Q31: Can the District do anything about the cost of employee pension and health insurance?
A. Employee benefits, as well as salaries, are a cost of doing business. The District strives to keep employee costs as low as possible while also being able to retain excellent employees who work efficiently and effectively, which in the long run serves to keep overall costs lower than they would be otherwise. As a result, the District has avoided costly fines for sewer overflows or spills, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Q32: Do new homes and other new development pay a fee to connect to the sewer system?
A. Yes. The District has connection fees, which in effect buy additional capacity in the treatment plant. The area of the District’s jurisdiction is essentially built out and only in-fill development will occur in the future. For information about specific connection fees and policies, contact the District office.
Q33: Are District workers city, county, or state employees?
A. No. They are employees of Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District, an independent special district.
Q34: What are the three types of wastewater treatment?
A. The three types of treatment offer increasingly more advanced treatment, beginning with primary (physical) and advancing through secondary (biological) and finally tertiary (physical and chemical).
Q35: What are the beneficial by-products of wastewater treatment?
A. Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District recycles water for use in wetlands ponds and for landscape irrigation. The District also takes methane gas from its process and generates electricity in a cogeneration plant.
Q36: How many households are in the District?
A. About 12,000.