San Diego homes and businesses have been improperly charged for a program that keeps toxic sewer water from being discharged
San Diego homes and businesses have been improperly charged for a program that keeps toxic sewer water from being discharged into the Pacific Ocean.
A new report from Interim City Auditor Kyle Elser said the city failed to charge Industrial Wastewater Control Program permit holders enough to cover the costs of the program.
According to the City Auditor’s Office, many of the fees charged to industrial polluters have not been adjusted since 1984. The Public Utilities Department agreed to adjust the fees last year, but failed to do so, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Between 2010 and 2019 city auditors found only 14% of almost $40 million in costs was recovered from permittees. The remaining $33 million was improperly billed to homes and businesses.
“These cost recovery practices remain out of compliance with city regulations and policies,” said the report. “More seriously, the possibility remains that, by passing on most program costs to other wastewater customers, the city may not be complying with Proposition 218.”
Proposition 218, which was passed in 1996, requires voters to approve tax increases. It also directs that fees charged to property owners, including for water and sewer service, cannot exceed the cost of providing the service.
The wrongly billed charges were imposed only on residents of San Diego and not on ratepayers across the county, who also participate in the industrial wastewater program, reported the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“Under the leadership of Mayor Faulconer, a new management structure and team are now in place and we are committed to continuous improvement throughout our operations,” said department Director Shauna Lorance in response to the report. “While over two decades have passed since IWCP fees were last updated, we have documented through our responses how we will periodically update fees to ensure that they remain appropriate and comply with all applicable regulations.”