The Huntsville Water & Sewer Commission last Thursday discussed a proposed rate increase that would take effect later this year.

Water Department Director Larry Garrett said – if approved by the city council – water rates would increase 5 cents per 1,000 gallons, while the sewer rate would increase 3 cents per 2,000 gallons. The new rates would go into effect on Dec. 15.

Sean Davis, who has been hired to replace Garrett when he retires in 2020, said, “The first of the year, [Madison County] Regional Water is increasing 5 cents per 1,000. We’ve got to recoup that, we’re passing that on. And we’re also looking at a few cents upchange on sewer.”

The proposed increase needs three readings by the council for approval.

The new rate on the first 1,000 gallons would be a minimum of $15.41 (currently $15.36) for water in the city and $23.12 outside the city. The sewer rate for the first 2,000 gallons would be a minimum $13.33 (currently $13.30) in the city and $20 outside the city.

In other business last week, the commission heard from Lydia Scates. She and her husband own a house on Hall Lane and believe there is a water leak from the city. The couple has had numerous tests done of water in their back yard. The tests show levels of chlorine, she said, which could indicate the water is from the city.

Scates said she and her husband have spent more than $5,000 repairing the basement, which leaks after rains.

“It’s been going on for several years,” she said of the water on the property.

“We would like for you guys to be open-minded and try to come up there and look at or try to figure out what’s going on, because it’s a mess.”

Scates said, “We’re at the frustration level ... it’s a mess. It’s a mess.” She said the back yard often is so wet it can’t be mowed.

Garrett said the city has taken samples, which have shown low levels of chlorine. He said certain minerals can cause “false positives” in test results.

“Our leak detection guy that we’ve had up here several times has told us we’ve seen it also that even groundwater that runs through certain minerals will turn those chlorine packets pink,” Garrett said. The packets are used in the testing process.

Distribution Manager Willie Alexander explained that a water line running on the south side of the Scates property was discontinued. A water meter was installed to help detect leaks.

Scates said water literally runs through their back yard after a rain and often stands for weeks at a time.

“It runs just like you’d think there’s a water leak, but when it dries up it quits running,” Garrett said.

“When it does stop running you would think that if it was a water leak that was continuous you’d still be seeing it come out down there,” he said about a slope in the back yard.

Davis said the city has been to the Scates’ house and also checked for leaks on Warren Street, up the hill from Hall Lane.

“We did go back a number of times and we did find your yard almost completely dry. It was during a two- or three-week dry spell. There may be a leak, but I feel a lot of your water is coming off the hillside.”

Garrett added, “If we’re losing water, we want to fix it.” Scates said, “Well, I think you are losing water. I feel pretty certain.”

Alexander, who said he installed a new water line on the property 17 or 18 years ago, said, “I can guarantee there’s nothing on their property leaking.”

Garrett said the city would take more samples of water on the Scates’ property and get an indepth analysis done by a lab to determine the level of chlorine or try to determine if minerals in the soil are causing false positive reports.

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