Citizens Water announced a sewer rate increase that takes effect next month. The increase of 10.75 percent or $2.84 per month will impact residential customers and will fund federally mandated improvements to the sewer system.
Both next month’s increase and another 10.75 percent increase scheduled for January 1, 2013, were approved by the Indianapolis City-County Council prior to Citizens acquiring the wastewater utility from the city. The rate increases were also approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) when it approved Citizens’ acquisition of the community’s water and wastewater utility.
“Throughout our discussions with the community about the utility acquisition, we told customers that sewer rates would increase every year until 2025 in order to fund sewer system improvements required in a Consent Decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” said Carey Lykins, President & CEO of Citizens Energy Group. “We are now focused on achieving $60 million in annual savings available through the utility transfer in order to keep future rate increases as low as possible.”
Benefits of the increase
The sewer rate increases will fund efforts to prevent the discharge of raw sewage into area rivers and streams, which is caused by a combined sewer system and failing septic tanks. One project that will be funded by the increase is the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector. The Deep Rock Tunnel Connector is part of a larger tunnel system that will eventually store 250 million gallons of wastewater before sending it to sewage treatment plants.
The Deep Rock Tunnel Connector will extend from the Southport Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) Plant located at Southport Road and Tibbs Avenue, to the 1700 block of South West Street, connecting up three of the city’s largest combined sewer overflow points. Major construction activities won’t begin until early 2012 and the project is scheduled to be completed by 2017.
“Without an increase in sewer rates, Citizens would not be able to fund Capital Improvement Projects like the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector,” said Lykins. “Its construction will not only prevent raw sewage from flowing into rivers and streams but, in the short-term, it will also create local jobs.”
Citizens is also committed to continuing the city’s effort to expand the sewer system to areas of the city that currently operate on septic tanks. More than 25,000 homes in Marion County are served by private septic systems. Septic systems have a limited life and eventually fail over time. The Septic Tank Elimination Program (STEP) will bring sewers to approximately 7,000 homes by 2013.