Henrico considers StormWater Utility, Fee

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - If you live in Henrico, you may one day be paying a new fee. If you don't like it, perhaps you can blame it on the rain.

The county is considering a storm water utility. It would likely come with a new fee for almost every home and business to help treat the rain water that flows into the James River.

New standards are coming down from the feds. They say the Chesapeake Bay is too dirty. The major culprit is storm water runoff into rivers, like the James. So the feds want cities, and counties like Henrico to do a better job of keeping that runoff clean.

"I can tell you that these regulations will cost and we will have to pay for them somehow," said Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett.

It would cost millions, which is why Henrico is in the early stages of discussing a storm water utility. It's the same thing the city of Richmond did in 2009. Homeowners pay between $25 and $70 a year. Large companies (which take up more space), pay more.

"People that contribute the most to storm water runoff pay a higher fee than people who contribute to less storm water runoff," said Richmond's Director of Public Utilities Chris Beschler.

Every time it rains, some of the water hits the hard surfaces on your property. It then flows toward a gutter. The water then flows to a storm drain. The new fee would help pay to maintain the drains. And help keep things like motor oil and other lawn chemicals out of the James River.

The fees are based on the amount of hard surfaces on your property. It's too early to know what they would be in Henrico.

"I think it's very difficult to do this during the economic downturn that we're in. And so I don't see us doing it until absolutely necessary," Hazelett said.

But top executives admit: the new storm water rules are coming. Richmond was the first metro-area locality to adapt with the utility. Henrico appears to be next.

"My advice to them is: Communicate. Make sure you talk about it and talk about it and communicate with all the stakeholders," Beschler said.

Hazelett does not expect the utility and its fee to be imposed this year. There's still more talking to be done. He doesn't think the county board would approve it until January of 2011, or even later.

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