Press Release

Dear Rockport Wastewater Users: 

We have heard your concerns about the Rockport wastewater fees and have been working hard to come to a resolution to address your increasing bills.  We understand property taxes are high enough, but a skyrocketing wastewater bill just doubles down on what was a financially brutal 2020 for many working families.

After careful consideration and advice from our engineering, financial and legal experts, the Rockport Wastewater Commissioners have agreed and voted on a final 2021-2022 wastewater budget. As we and you know, Rockport’s charges to users have increased substantially over the past several years.  In this budget, we have reduced the user rate from $18.10 per 100 cubic feet to $15.00 per 100 cubic feet to reflect our commitment to address some key issues that have resulted in the high user rate.  This reduction in the user rate will result in a reduction in your wastewater bill for the upcoming budget year, beginning with your next bill in July. Below is some brief background on our wastewater user fee issues.

  1.  Increased residential wastewater due to COVID-19 and outdoor watering:  

In 2020 many wastewater bills increased due to COVID-19 and people adhering to CDC guidelines to stay at home. With people spending so much time at home last year (instead of at school, or at work) household wastewater increased—doubling in many cases.  Those times appear to be almost at an end, and we welcome the return to normalcy we are seeing across the community. Also, because wastewater billings are based on water usage, a dry summer with outside watering also caused an increase in many wastewater bills.  We have encouraged residents to take advantage of the ability to separately meter outside irrigation water and thereby exclude that water usage from wastewater billing, which a number of residents have done.

  1. Unanticipated higher inflow to the sewer collection system:

While addressing your concerns and looking for reasons why our flow had increased, we identified inflow issues where more water was entering the treatment plant and was billed to Rockport but was not being billed back to wastewater users.  Unfortunately, in 2020 we had to correct bills, skewing them much higher to remedy the imbalance.

To address the inflow issues, the Town conducted an infiltration and inflow study over the past several years looking for possible additional sources of wastewater that were not reflected in the current records of wastewater users.  As part of this study, two pipe breaks on Beauchamp Point and Summer Street were discovered which have now been fixed.  We also spent the summer of 2019-2020 conducting house and business inspections and found some unpermitted connections which resulted in unbilled usage. These issues have been corrected and users are now properly paying for their usage. In addition, a meter measuring wastewater flow was recently replaced – despite having been annually calibrated, including in 2020, it appears that the meter was not functioning correctly and was overreporting wastewater flow for treatment. All of these projects have been completed and, as a result, we are continuing to see decreased flows.  We will need a few more months of data to identify if these fixes have corrected the known inflow problems.  

  1. Interlocal agreement with Camden for wastewater treatment:

In 2019, we enlisted the assistance of our engineering team at Woodard and Curran to complete an analysis of our flows and contract with Camden. Our 30-year contract expired in February of 2020. (We also send wastewater to Rockland, however that contract is not up for renewal until 2022.) 

Camden charges Rockport users the same rate it bills its Camden customers. Rockport does not use the totality of the infrastructure that this charge is based on.  We have had several meetings with Camden to discuss these findings and shared the discrepancy with the Camden Town Manager, Wastewater Superintendent, and members of the Select Board.   We are continuing to work with Camden to remedy this situation as quickly as possible. However, the approved Wastewater Budget for Fiscal Year Ending 2022 represents a calculated reduction on the fair user rate we have proposed to Camden.

We will continue working for your benefit and are committed to reducing your usage rates, to ensure you are paying a fair rate. Should you have any additional questions please reach out to Megan Brackett at the Town Office 207-230-0180 x6 or at mbrackett@rockportmaine.gov.

On behalf of the Rockport Select Board,

Michelle Hannan, Chair