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Tighe & Bond 2009 water and sewer rate survey released

By Amanda Lemon
Staff Intern
WESTFIELD In tough economic times, every penny spent seems to matter. So what about the money that's going down the drain... literally?
For that, Tighe & Bond has released its annual 2009 Water and Sewer Rate Survey, which provides a comprehensive look at how consumer costs vary across the state. Results show that Massachusetts residents pay an average of $426 annually for water and $583 for sewer.
The survey is compiled from numerous sources, including written and telephone survey responses, city and town Web sites and Tighe & Bond's existing database of client rate information.
"We are an engineering firm in the community, and we do the surveys as a kind gesture to our clients," stated a representative for the company.
Locally, rates appear to be well below the state's average water rates. While the low end of the spectrum was an enviable $113 annually, some areas in the state pay as high $1,962.
A major water provider for the Western Massachusetts area is the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission. Average sales are around 35.8 million gallons of water per day.
Kathy Pedersen, spokesperson for the commission, explained, "We distribute water primarily to Springfield and Ludlow. We provide wholesale to Agawam, East Longmeadow and Longmeadow. Also, we are an emergency source for Chicopee and Westfield, providing less than five percent of their water annually."
Of these towns, Agawam has the lowest average rates of $205, with Springfield close behind at $254. Residents of Westfield and East Longmeadow both pay an even $300, while Chicopee pays just over that at $324.
With this year's average water rates climbing 16.8 percent over 2006 survey results, it's clear that expenses are on the rise.
When asked about this, Pedersen explained, "It's all based on costs of operation and capital improvement. We're dealing with pipes that are 100 years old or more. They require maintenance and upgrades that we provide through our capital improvement projects."
Improvements made within the last two years in the Springfield and Ludlow areas include the replacement of 170 hydrants and thousands of feet of water main installation, the removal of asbestos cement pipes and the addition of 63 cross connection monitoring devices, which help prevent drinking water contamination.
When it comes to sewer rates, local rates are more varied. While all fall far below the state high of $1,632 annually, they do exceed the low of $168.
The Springfield Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility provides sewer services for Springfield and the surrounding communities, including Agawam, East Longmeadow, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Wilbraham, West Springfield and part of Chicopee.
The facility, known widely as "Bondi's Island" in honor of the land's original owner Luigi Bondi, is located in Agawam.
The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission Web site reports "a daily average of 38 million gallons of wastewater is cleaned, treated and returned to the Connecticut River."
Rates among communities using the Bondi's Island treatment facility are mixed. East Longmeadow residents enjoy the lowest at an average of $252 annually, with Agawam close behind at $259. Springfield residents average $305 for sewer rates and Chicopee tops the local charts at a staggering $488.
Notably, Westfield residents pay an average $262, and are the only local community to not have a sewer rate increase since 2002.
To view the report online, please visit rates.tighebond.com.