Cheat Lake residents facing 91% sewer rate jump

If current estimates hold, Cheat Lake customers of the Morgantown Utility Board are likely looking at a sewer rate increase of approximately 91% as part of the utility’s Cheat Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion project. 

MUB General Manager Mike McNulty explained as much to about 20 Cheat Lake residents Tuesday evening as the utility board conducted its regular monthly meeting at Lakeview Golf Resort. 

The state uses 3,400 gallons as the average for measuring rate changes. With the new rate in place, a home producing 3,400 gallons of wastewater would pay $67.97 per month.  

McNulty explained this will be the first sewer rate increase for Cheat Lake customers since 2014. 

The increase will help the utility finance a treatment plant expansion, and improvements to the Whites Run and Greystone pumping stations, currently estimated at $39,695,529. 

All these numbers are estimates until bids are opened in September.  

“As everyone could imagine, there are going to be many, many projects across the state of West Virginia bidding, starting now. We have three projects out today. Now we’re going to have number four go out. This is all over the state of West Virginia and there are only so many contractors,” McNulty said. “It’s not the best environment for opening bids right now.”  

Regardless of the numbers involved, any rate increases — as well as the issuance of project bonds — will have to be approved by Morgantown City Council, likely in September or October. 

Timing will be critical for MUB over the next five months as $6.75 million of the project’s financing is coming via American Rescue Plan Act dollars in the form of an Economic Enhancement Grant from the West Virginia Water Development Authority. 

That money comes with a hard deadline of Dec. 31 for the project to be under contract. 

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s State Revolving Fund has agreed to loan MUB approximately $30 million over 30 years at 2% interest. 

The project’s current timeline has MUB closing on the loan and obtaining a notice to proceed on Dec. 18. Final completion of the two-and-a-half-year project is anticipated in June of 2027. 

The upgrade will increase the plant’s capacity from 750,000 gallons to 1.75 million gallons per day to meet projected customer growth for at least the next 20 years. 

The plant is already exceeding permitted limits during heavy flows, meaning the expansion will either move forward through the current process or by state mandate. 

“The growth would stop. There would be no more building,” McNulty said when asked what would happen if the plant were not upgraded.  

“A moratorium would have to go into place, but that would only be for a very small period of time because the state of West Virginia would come in and tell us, ‘No, you’re moving forward. You’re going to expand your treatment plant and you’re going to lift your moratorium.’”