ASPA’s trash and sewage rate hike will bring in an additional $.5M annually
American Samoa Power Authority is estimating it will collect around half a million dollars annually in additional revenue from the new rate increases that went into effect last week for waste water and solid waste services, says ASPA executive director Utu Abe Malae.
As reported early this week in Samoa News, this is the second incremental increase following a rate hike study conducted two year ago by US based Economists.com. The hikes became effect Nov. 21, according to an ASPA notice, which also says that there are no changes scheduled for electric and water rates at this time.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Utu explained (as Samoa News received a few public comments questioning whether a public hearing was held for the rate hike) that on Dec. 17, 2014, ASPA held a public hearing as part of the Administrative Procedures Act to present new rates for its Water, Wastewater and Solid Waste services.
The public hearing was held to inform the public about ASPA’s plans for the rate increases, the timing of those increases, and to invite comments and input from the citizens and community of American Samoa concerning ASPA’s plans. In June 2015, the first of a series of four increases for Wastewater and Solid Waste was implemented, Utu said, adding that the 2nd incremental increase, which was implemented in November 2016, will affect Wastewater and Solid Waste rates.
Asked how much additional revenue ASPA would collect on the new rates and how much was collected prior to the rate hikes, Utu said, “We calculated approximately $480,000 per year in additional revenue that will fund Wastewater operational expenses and an additional $20,000 per year in revenue that will fund operational expenses for Solid Waste.”
“Prior to the rate increase, Wastewater revenue averaged $230,000 per month or $2.7 million per year in FY2016,” he explained. “Solid Waste revenue averaged $236,000 per month or $2.8 million per year.”
Asked how ASPA plans to use the additional revenues to further improve wastewater and solid waste services, Utu first pointed out that ASPA has been under an Administrative Order issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) which mandates that ASPA’s Wastewater system include secondary treatment of sewage.
“While the USEPA fully funded the construction of an Ultraviolet Disinfection Plant that would satisfy the requirements of the Administrative Order, the costs for the maintenance and operation of the plant is borne by ASPA,” he explained. “While ensuring compliance with Federal Regulations, ASPA also seeks to utilize the additional revenue for the expansion of its Wastewater systems which is necessary in order to protect the Territory’s groundwater resources.”
On solid waste, Utu said the rate increase is necessary as ASPA explores new options for the existing landfill, which is nearing its maximum capacity. In addition, litter across the territory continues to pose a problem for all its residents as our economy continues to diversify.
“ASPA’s efforts to ensure the effective collection of solid waste have expanded,” he said. “As a result, costs to provide Solid Waste services for the Territory continue to increase and the rate increase will help to defray those costs.”
Ask if ASPA has any plans in the future to hike rates for electric and water services, Utu points out that no rate changes are proposed for electric rates in the Rate Study conducted in 2014.
“However, ASPA is currently engaged in a rate study to assess electric rates as part of a mandate to evaluate electric rates every 5 years,” he said. “Water rates will not change this year, but will change in October 2017.”
Based on a Samoa News request for further clarification, Utu provided a brief overall look at the new hikes for wastewater and solid waste. For example, for solid waste, residential rate will increase from $11.40 to $11.98, which is a $0.58 increase per month.
Small General Service customers, which are the small stores and office, will see their solid waste rates decrease by $5.75. The old rate was $57.50 and will drop to $51.75. “Small General Service is the only rate class that will see a rate decrease due to the realignment of costs associated with solid waste collections for the Small General Services customer class,” he said. Additionally, the Large General Service customer rate class (large stores) will see an increase of $7.83 per month. The old rate changed from $391.31 to the new rate of $399.14.
For wastewater, the groundwater protection fee will increase from $17.06 to $20.05 - a difference of $2.99 for all customers being charged the Groundwater Protection flat rate.
Utu notes that the wastewater rate increase will also affect the volume rate for commercial customers with a water meter. The volume rate will increase from $1.94 to $2.28, an increase of $0.34 per every 1000 gallons of water going into the wastewater system.
More specific details of each classification of rate increases as well as the proposed rate hikes for Oct. 1, 2017 are on: www.aspower.com