Nearly a decade after D.C.’s water authority levied a “Clean Rivers” surcharge to help clean up local waterways, faith community leaders say that ever-rising rates have forced them to cut back on services, lay off staff and — in at least 30 cases — move out or shut down completely.
Churches and other houses of worship, they say, have special operating requirements that add to the surcharge on their water bills.
The Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge is based on the “impervious area” square footage of a property. The measure includes parking lots, sidewalks and any land that rainwater cannot permeate. Religious properties tend to own more impervious land than typical ratepayers, and even their cemeteries count against them when the tax is calculated.
“It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair,” said Craig Muckle, manager of public policy for the Archdiocese of Washington. “I look at it as insanity, frankly.”
Mr. Muckle leads a coalition of churches, synagogues and cemeteries called DC RIVER (Religious Institutions Valuing Environmental Responsibility), which is lobbying DC Water and the D.C. Council to reduce the Clean Rivers burden.