The City Of Fort Smith Strives To Keep Sewer Rates From Rising

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The City of Fort Smith wants to protect its residents from having to pay higher sewer rates in the near future.

Last Friday (Aug. 10th), city leaders met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 members in Dallas to request changes to the federal court order they received in 2015.

The city got the federal court order, also known as a consent decree because it had violated the Clean Water Act by allowing certain sewer overflows to dump into the Arkansas River.

As it stands, the consent decree requires the city to spend $480 million on wastewater improvements from 2015 to 2026.

Since 2015, the city has invested $100 million, but the city wants to modify the total amount it has to invest because they say it’s unaffordable.

"We're looking to comply with the clean water act, but at the same point in time, we need the work to be done logically and we need to protect our ratepayers,” said City Administrator Carl Geffken.

Specifically, Geffken says they don’t want the sewer rates to go higher than 1.9 percent of the median household income.

He adds that they can still make the improvements necessary with less money because the city has learned about more efficient and economical methods and approaches available.

Geffken expects to hear back from the EPA in about one month. If they don’t get their requested modifications, they will have to look at other options to stop the water and sewer rates from becoming unreasonable.

Over the past 10 years, Fort Smith has invested almost $200 million in improvements to its system, according to a recent press release from the city.