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Water bills expected to increase in double digits

With water rate hikes expected to be in double digits when they are announced next month, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner came to Brooklyn recently to discuss projects and initiatives in the borough.

DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway came to the meeting at I.S. 303, 501 West Avenue, along with City Council member Domenic Recchia as part of a one-stop tour in all the city’s boroughs.

“We initiated these meetings to give New Yorkers an opportunity to hear more about the work DEP is doing in neighborhoods throughout the city, and how we finance that work to supply, distribute, and treat more than one billion gallons of the best drinking water in the country every day,” said Holloway.

Holloway noted several capital projects the DEP has embarked on in the borough including the $5 billion Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade, the $200 Coney Island drainage plan, the $66 million Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade, the $207 million AvenueV pumping station in Sheepshead Bay, the $422 million Perdegat Basin in Canarsie the $175 million to help clean the Gowanus Canal, and the $14 million upgrade of the Owls Head Wastewater Treatment Plant in Bay Ridge.

Holloway’s tour of the boroughs comes as the city’s Water Board under DEP jurisdiction and all its members being appointed by the Bloomberg administration has hiked water rates over 48 percent in the last four years.

This includes a 12.9% hike in the current Fiscal Year 2010, 14.5 percent in FY 2009, 11.5 percent in FY 2008 and 9.4 percent in FY2007.

With last year’s hikes, many one-family home owners paid over $1,000 annually for the first time.

DEP spokesperson Michael Saucier said the agency is working to keep the rates as low as possible.

“Many of these (aforementioned) projects are mandates and this is partly what drives the increases in water and sewer rates,” he said, adding its premature to say exactly what the increase will be.

While some of the money collected goes to the rental of infrastructure and interest paid to the city from bond issuance, several hundred million dollars will go to the city’s general revenue fund.

Former Comptroller William Thompson estimated property owners will contribute more than $200 million in water and sewer taxes to the general fund by Fiscal Year 2012.

The Water Board will announce the FY 2011 rates next month, and then hold one hearing in each borough before final adoption in May. The increase will go into affect July 1.

Recchia said that people should be aware of the situation and make sure to come out and testify about the increase.

Recchia also said he would like to see the hearing moved from its usual Brooklyn College to a more easily accessible location.

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