Utility bills in Missoula may increase to comply with Clean Water Act

Homeowners in Missoula may see an increase in utility bills a few more dollars a month, to obey federal law under the Clean Water Act. 

The Missoula City Council heard a presentation Wednesday morning about setting the permanent rates for the city's storm water utility by the county public works department. 

Missoula County Public Works Interim Director Dennis Bowman said storm water run-off is the leading cause of water pollution in the state.

Storm water run-off happens when rain or melting snow flow across hard surfaces like roofs or parking lots. Storm water run-off can cause increased flooding and pollution to waterways. 

If the city does not comply with the Clean Water Act, the city could be fined up to $10,000 a day, according to Bowman. He isn't sure when the fines would start, but said sometime in 2020 the city would start getting billed. He said it is federal law, and the city does not have a choice whether to opt out. 

"We have a very precious resource with our aquifer, so we need everybody's part to turn around and make sure it's protected," Bowman added. 

At the presentation, Bowman estimated for a single-family home, utility bills could bump up about $4.21 a month, or about $50.53 a year. 

The rate has not been finalized yet. A public hearing is set for December 16 at the Missoula City Council meeting. 

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