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Planned hike in septage rates draws criticism
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A proposal to raise rates for septage treatment to recoup costs has drawn protest from septage hauling business owners that say the charging system is unfair and the increase is too sharp.

Dwight Wicks, director of RWR, said the department had lost about $162,000 last year because of the difference in cost and the rates currently being charged. He also pointed out that vendors were coming in with septage collected from other counties because of Rockdale’s cheap rates and that treating septage was not a profitable venture and was a service that RWR provided to county and city residents.

Currently, Rockdale Water Resources charges a flat fee of $100. The treatment cost is about $87 per 1000 gallons, $174 for 2000 gallons, and $348 for 4000 gallons, according to Rockdale Water Resources. The average truck size is about 2,500 gallons.

Rockdale Water Resources is proposing a permit fee of $100 per truck plus $125 for a 1000 gallon truck, $251 for a 2000 gallon truck, $376 for a 3000 gallon truck, and $501 for a 4000 gallon truck – a multi-fold increase.

Looking at nearby counties, DeKalb county charges $125 per 1,000 gallons and a flat rate of $100, and both Henry and Gwinnett counties charge $100 per 1000 gallons.

The new rates were presented at the May 3 Board of Commissioners work session and speakers during the public comments period expressed frustration at having to pay for a whole truck load though the truck might not be full.

Frank Bowen, of Bowen’s Septic, said "I understand the onslaught of trucks coming in; I’m all about stopping these other guys coming in. I’m fine with (the rate) going up. But it needs to be a fair playing field… If it’s going to be by the gallon, it should be by the gallon, not by the truck."

Driver Daniel Scott said he drives a 3500 gallon truck and wanted to know how the trucks would identify the source of the waste.

Equipment that had been previously installed to measure the amount of septage being dumped was "out of commission" due to debris and other items, said Wicks.

"This affects everybody in Rockdale County," said Arnold Bowen of Arnold Septic Tank. "$300-500 dollars on a septic tank per homeowner, that’s going to be hard."

"If you go up too high, you’ll have people pumping it up with a sump pump and spreading it on their yards and plowing it under."

Garvin Haynes, a member of the Water and Sewer Authority Board, said the rate increase was part of an overall effort to do "cost accounting." "I think we’re goind it as cost effective as we can."

"Right now, we have a plant in dire straights," he said, adding that the Quigg treatment plant was under a moratorium for new business because it was nearly at its limit.