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Published on Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Each day, MSD's complex maze of underground pipes collects wastewater generated by all of St. Louis City and 80 percent of St. Louis County, conveying it to one of our seven regional wastewater treatment plants. Once it arrives, we screen large debris and grit from the flow. We allow solids to settle out of the water.  Then we put the solids and the water through several treatment and disinfection processes to remove harmful bacteria.  Once the water meets stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements for quality, we release it back to local waterways.  We do all this for about one-half cent a gallon.  Over the course of a month, that comes to about $28, or $315 a year.   That one-half cent per gallon buys much more than the comforts of indoor plumbing.  It buys our region cleaner waterways.  It protects us from disease.  It makes the St. Louis area a better place to live.  All in all, it's not a bad deal when you consider the alternative.  But there are some things that this one-half cent a gallon does NOT include.  It does not cover the substantial costs of removing sewer overflows or making other changes to comply with new and increasingly stringent environmental regulations that we are being asked to meet.  Nor does it fully include the cost of rehabilitating and replacing the thousands of miles of sewers that we own and operate.  If you factor in these additional expenses, the actual cost to operate our wastewater management system is closer to a penny per gallon of treated sewage.  Over time, our rates will likely need to reflect these additional costs.  But not a penny more.