Regulators OK utility’s request to raise local sewer rates

Indianapolis-area residents will see their monthly sewer rates increase by 30 percent over the next year after state regulators approved a plan Tuesday to fund improvements to the aging system.

Citizens Energy Group said the average residential wastewater bill will climb about $8.50 a month starting in August, and another $2.50 a month next year. The current average residential sewer bill is about $35 a month.

Citizens said it has already invested more than $774 million in the wastewater system, preventing more than 2 billion gallons of raw sewage from overflowing into area waterways each year.

The increase will fund an additional $425 million of system improvements over the next two years, it said.

Citizens bought the city’s water and wastewater systems in 2011 for $1.9 billion. The company said the systems it bought were aging, with some of the water pipes installed before World War I, with many severely damaged and overdue for replacing. The company said it was not responsible for decades of neglect. It launched an awareness campaign late last year to warn the public about the looming rate increases.

In April, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved a similar increase of water rates. That increase took effect in May, raising the average bill for residential customers in the nine-county metropolitan area from about $30 a month to $35.

Under a federal consent decree, the sewer system must be configured by 2025 to deal with storm-water overflow that can cause raw sewage to burst out into local streams.

In response, Citizens is boring a deep, 28-mile tunnel under the city to capture storm water until it can be pumped to treatment stations. It is also expanding the Southport Sewage Treatment Plant to double capacity.

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