Establishing the Relationship Between Sewer Surcharge Fees and Pollutant Discharges by Industrial Users




Hicks, Daniel

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Sewer surcharge fees are often implemented by utilities in the United States as part of a larger pretreatment program under the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) regulatory framework. The fees are generally intended to either recoup the cost of treating wastewater with excessive pollution, or to encourage customers to discharge smaller quantities of pollutants. Currently there is no existing research that quantifies the effect of sewer surcharge fees on pollutant discharges, depriving regulators of the ability to design evidence-based sewer surcharge programs. The purpose of this research is to establish the relationship between sewer surcharge fees and pollutant discharges. Specifically, this study examines a secondary dataset with chemical oxygen demand (COD) discharges by 52 industrial users permitted by a large Tennessee utility over a four-year period from 2018-2021. A conceptual framework of formal hypotheses was used to direct a quasi-experimental study of the data. The study uses an interrupted time-series approach for regression analysis to quantify the change in COD discharges between 2018-2019 when there was no fee in place, and 2020-2021 after the fee was implemented. This analysis found no significant relationship between COD discharges and the presence of a sewer surcharge fee. The Conclusion chapter discusses the findings and suggests areas for future research.


An Applied Research Project Submitted to the Department of Political Science, Texas State University, in Partial Fulfillment for the Requirements for the Degree of Masters of Public Administration, Spring 2022.


surcharge, user fees, economics, wastewater, pollution, Clean Water Act, pretreatment, Public Administration


Hicks, D. (2022). Establishing the relationship between sewer surcharge fees and pollutant discharges by industrial users. Masters of Public Administration, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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