MSD Ratepayers Face Big Hikes — as Feds Order Sewer Improvements
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Your sewer bill could shoot up to around $85 a month in 15 years, to pay for vast upgrades needed to keep sewer water away from creeks and rivers, as part of a federal consent decree agreement announced today.
“This is money out of our ratepayers pockets,” said MSD spokesman Lance LeComb, “St. Louisans are going to pay for this. There essentially is no state or federal assistance.”
MSD has agreed to make $4.7 billion in improvements over 23 years to sewer systems and treatment plants to settle a lawsuit over violations of the Clean Water Act. The timetable, described by the feds as “aggressive but reasonable,” aims to prevent raw sewage from entering area waterways and to curtail the problem of basement backups during heavy downpours.
MSD will also be required to eliminate more than 200 illegal discharge points within the sanitary sewer system.
“We are fully committed to vigorous enforcement of the Clean Water Act,” said Ignacia Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment of Natural Resources Division.
The EPA’s Regional Administrator Karl Brooks announced the agreement with soaring rhetoric, saying it will restore the “blue necklace of waterways” around St. Louis. Brooks had no specific projections on how the mandate will be funded, or how much of it will be borne by ratepayers.
MSD’s spokesman LeComb says ratepayers are in for a series of rate hikes in the next 15 years to keep pace with the court order. Right now, the MSD rate commission is considering a $945 million rate hike that would increase rates more than double over the next four years to around $47 a month.
When asked if local households can bear the brunt of enforcing the Clean Water Act, LeComb says no one knows yet.
“That’s certainly a legitimate question,” LeComb said, “It’s going to be something that unfortunately, only time will tell.”