Citizens: 2014 sewer bills to jump 50%, water 10%

Utility bills will take a jump next year for many who live in the Indianapolis area.

Citizens Energy Group revealed plans Thursday to request rate hikes that could soon lead to 50 percent higher sewer (wastewater) bills and 10 percent higher water bills.

The news wasn’t exactly welcome outside the Citizens Energy Customer Service Center on Thursday.

“It’s already high enough and we’ve got kids,” said Tiffany of Indianapolis.

“I’m not very excited to hear it,” said Tameka Patterson, of Indianapolis. “Everything is going up every time you look around. When is it going to end?”

According to Citizens Energy Group, the water and sewer increases aren’t going to end any time soon.

“We will be asking for rate increases on the wastewater side probably annually,” said Citizens Spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple. “On the water side, maybe on a more bi-annual basis.”

The biggest of the increases is planned for 2014. In January, Citizens customers will see their water bill jump by about 10 percent, or $3 a month on average. Wastewater bills will jump by nearly 50 percent by the end of 2014. It will begin with a $10 per month increase in January, and in October it will jump another $4 a month on average.

The water bill increase will fund water treatment improvements and system upgrades designed to cut down on the number of water  main breaks.

“They’re inconvenient for customers,” Holsapple said. “They’re inconvenient for motorists and we have about 700 water main breaks every year.”

According to Citizens, the biggest reason for the sewer hike is to clean up waterways like Fall Creek and others, which are frequently polluted by the current wastewater system. All it takes is about a quarter inch of rain before raw sewage combines with wastewater and flows into waterways.

“We can’t do that anymore,” Holsapple said. “And that costs money.”

The money is being used to construct a massive underground tunnel system that will capture raw sewage, and help the city comply with an EPA mandate. The work has already begun on the south side but it will take years to complete.

“It’s safe to say that the vast majority of that money is going to be spent on the underground tunnel system,” Holsapple said.

Though the improvements make sense to customers, it comes at a time when extra cents are hard to come by.

“I definitely want our safety to come first,” Bailey said. “I don’t want the sewage to run into the water, but I think that is a little too much (money).”

Costomers who have trouble paying their utility bill with Citizens can seek financial assistance. For more information call 317-924-3311.

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