The District recently completed a $30 million upgrade and modernization of our Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).
The new infrastructure and next-generation technology ensures the district will comply with our National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) operating permit, which established more stringent state and federal wastewater standards.
Regulations requiring reductions in the ammonia and phosphorus in treated wastewater obligated the District to invest in new technology. We are not alone. Wastewater utilities across Idaho and the country are working to meet these pollution standards.
Our previous system, reliant in part on lagoons that had been in service for more than four decades, were simply ill-equipped to meet the new standards. Ignoring the requirements to reduce ammonia and phosphorus levels would have put public health at risk and exposed the District to significant penalties.
The two biggest features of the upgrade include a new Headworks building, the first stage of the treatment process, and a second Membrane Bioreactor, which handles secondary treatment using micro-organisms and microfiltration to remove contaminants. The District also re-routed its piping infrastructure and invested in new UV (ultraviolet) purification systems.
These improvements are making the treatment process more efficient and our treated product cleaner, with test data showing the District is exceeding the tougher standards. The design, planning and construction work over the last eight years has also increased capacity, positioning the WWTP to grow with our community.
With the project complete, it’s time for the District to begin paying down the low-interest loan that financed the project
The District agreed in 2018 to finance the $30 million project through a low-interest loan – and a $1 million grant – with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
To help finance future loan payments, the Star Sewer & Water District Board of Directors approved a sewer rate increase of $18 per month for residential customers and $18 per EDU/connection for commercial customers.
|Type of Fee||Current Rates||Rates Effective 08/01/23|
|Monthly Sewer Service||$36.25||$54.25|
|Monthly Water Service||$25.60||$25.60|
The District has a proven history of conservative, fiscal management. We take pride in spending wisely and being mindful of the impact rates have on our customers. This responsible money management approach is why water and sewer rates in Star, even with the recent increase, remain among the lowest in communities across the Treasure Valley.
|Boise (Veolia for Water)||$29.36||$63.22||$92.58|
The Board has also approved a Low-Income/Low-Consumption Senior Utility Assist program that enables qualifying customers to receive a rate freeze on their monthly bills. To qualify, customers must meet certain criteria, including:
- Have an established water and sewer account.
- Live at the address receiving services as your primary residence.
- Consumption during winter months (December – March) does not exceed 3,000 gallons.
- Be at least 62 years of age, and, or
- Meet total household income guidelines.
Customers interested in applying for the rate freeze should contact the District Main Office at (208) 286-7388 or visit: starswd.com/forms
We take seriously our responsibility to provide clean drinking water, safe and reliable treatment of our wastewater, and to protect public health and our natural resources. We all have a role to play in preserving the quality of life we enjoy in Star and preparing our community for the future.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Effective, August 1, 2023, the monthly sewer rate will be increasing by $18 per month for residential customers and $18 per EDU/connection for commercial customers. The Board of Directors approved the rate increase at a public hearing held on April 21, 2023. The Board did not increase monthly water rates, which have been at their current level since 2018.
The reason for the sewer rate increase is to generate more revenue so the District can begin paying for the just-completed $30 million upgrade and modernization of the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). The upgrade started in 2020 and was completed in April, and now the District must begin making payments on the low-interest loan with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The loan will be repaid with new revenue generated by this rate increase as well as revenue generated by new water/sewer connections and monthly rates paid by new customers.
As some may remember, in 2015 the District was issued a new National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) operating permit by the state and federal government. This new permit included more stringent standards for the amount of ammonia and phosphorus allowed in our treated wastewater, standards that are being applied in communities big and small across the country. At the time, our existing system could not meet those new requirements. As a result, the District needed to make changes or face steep fines and penalties.
As part of the project, the District built a new headworks/screening facility and added a second Membrane-Bioreactor (MBR) treatment train. We installed a new network of sewer pipes and re-routed the inflow of our community’s wastewater into the plant. We also added new UV (ultraviolet) purification technology, expanded our equipment and storage building and retrofitted our original MBR to make it more operationally efficient. The original MBR was last refurbished eight years ago.
We are proud of the fact that the project came in slightly under budget and well ahead of the 2025 deadline for complying with the new pollution standards.
Growth was not a factor at all in the decision to invest in the upgrades. The fact is, even if for some reason growth in Star was frozen five years ago and not a single new house built, the District still would have been required to upgrade and meet the more stringent pollution standards set by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency.
However, the growth in our community over the last five years was a positive factor in the way the new sewer rates were increased. The addition of more homes helped spread around the cost of our annual debt payment to more customers – thus lowering the cost per customer that was projected five years ago when the District embarked on this upgrade project.
The District is proud of the fact that it’s been able to keep rates low for decades and still provide quality water and sewer service. Our water and sewer rates have been among the lowest, most-affordable in the Treasure Valley for decades – and this rate increase does not change that.
Average customer water and sewer bills will total $79.85 per month starting Aug. 1, when the sewer portion of the bill increases by $18. Even with the increase, the District’s rates remain in the lower-third for water and sewer rates in and around the Treasure Valley. Customers in communities like Middleton, Emmett, Eagle, Garden City, Melba, Boise, Nampa and McCall all pay higher rates for water and sewer service.
Our goal is to continue managing the District and its resources conservatively and wisely. This approach has enabled the District to keep rates low compared to other communities while still providing quality service. We do not intend to change that approach.
It’s impossible to predict the future. The District will conduct periodic rate studies as needed to determine rate viability. Those studies will obviously factor in growth in our customer base, operating costs, and debt repayment.
Yes, there are several. First, the District is operating within its permit and complying with all environmental standards, including meeting allowed levels for ammonia and phosphorus. While this was the main goal, it also means the District is protecting public health and our natural resources. Our treated wastewater is discharged into the Lawrence-Kennedy canal, which borders the treatment plant and ultimately flows into the Boise River. Our treated water meets government clean water standards for recycled use, so it’s reassuring to know we are doing what we ca to protect the river and the surrounding environment.
The new Headworks building and Membrane Bioreactor have also increased the District’s efficiency and flexibility, putting the District in a position to handle increased demand from future growth and to more easily adapt if new pollution regulations are mandated by state or federal environmental agencies.