NORWAY – Sewer users will see a slight increase in their bills this year, but officials hope to cut future bills by using more solar equipment at the treatment plant lagoons.

Wastewater Department Superintendent Shawn Brown said Monday that he is waiting word from the Department of Energy on a $112,000 grant application that, if approved, will pay for two more solar bees units.

“It will probably be another month or two before I know anything,” he said.
In October of 2007, the Wastewater Department won a $50,000 renewable energy state grant to implement the first-in-the-state, solar-powered reservoir circulator at the treatment plant on Brown Street.

Since installing the solar panels, the town has reported the plant’s electricity use has been cut in half.

The system, which operates on solar power reducing energy consumption by reducing aeration/mixing equipment run time, cut the power bill from $50,000 to $25,000 the first year.

The town had hoped to fund five more solar panels from the stimulus funding program earlier this year. The goal was to cut electrical use at the wastewater plant from about $25,000 a year to zero, but that funding was turned down in March.

But with the new application for two more units, Brown said he still hopes to see a chance to reduce energy consumption to keep the annual budget low and sewer user fees from skyrocketing.

Selectmen last week approved a $484,041 operating and debt service budget for the Wastewater Department, which means the average sewer user will see a six cent per 100 cubic feet increase in their bills.

“It’s about the same as the last three years total operating and debt service,” Brown said.

Brown said based on an average household use of 1,200 cubic feet of wastewater per quarter, the user will see 72 cents more on their bill under the new rates.

Unlike the water district, which is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission and can only increase rates when approved by that agency, the sewer budget is regulated by the town.

About 750 homes and businesses are attached to the town’s sewer, which includes many multiple units, Brown said.

Additionally, part of Oxford’s commercial district in the north end is tied into Norway’s sewer system.

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