Citing the need to protect groundwater and environmentally sensitive areas like streams, creeks and wetlands, the University Place City Council has asked the Pierce County Council to impose an additional $5.50 per month surcharge on all UP homeowners so that sewer lines can be extended to neighborhoods still on septic systems. Property owners still relying on septic systems will be required to connect to the sewer system once a sewer line comes within 300 feet of their home, and they will be charged an additional $5.50 per month for every month they remain unconnected. The new charges will take effect in January 2006 if the County Council approves the request.
University Place has searched for a solution to the problem of failing septic systems for several years, but always the cost to an individual homeowner to connect to a sewer line or repair a failing septic system has ranged from $15,000 to $35,000, leading the City Council not to impose mandatory connection ordinances. The decision to spread the cost among the entire community hearkens back to the 1970s when most of the sewer lines were installed in University Place. Back then, the Federal government subsidized much of the construction cost and the rest was borne through Utility Local Improvement (ULID) financing over several years. Today, the same Federal funding is not available and the cost to organize and adminstrate a ULID has increased to the point where it is not practical, city officials say.
Despite the surcharge, sewer rates in University Place will still be lower than in most surrounding communities, city officials say.