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Sewer rates set to increase under new utility settlement announced Thursday

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Increases are coming for your sewer bill. Citizens Energy Group reached an agreement with a state consumer advocacy group Thursday, and you could feel the pain in your wallet sometime later this year.

The utility said it must comply with a federal order and fix the city’s outdated sewer system which dumps wastewater into the White River and other streams in times of rainfall.

"Today about 100 million gallons will overflow into the White River and other streams. We are under a federal order to fix that problem by 2025," said Dan Considine, with Citizens Energy Group.

Citizens asked for a bump in sewer rates, $15 more per month in 2016, along with $3 per month in 2017.

In the settlement with the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, Citizens said they’ll instead get roughly $8.50 per month in 2016, along with $2.50 per month in 2017. The final deal is awaiting state regulatory approval.

“The dollars are going to be needed for the capital improvements,” said Anthony Swinger, with the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor.

Swinger said the increases aren’t without merit, though negotiations did trim about $25 million total from the utility’s original request.

As part of both the water and wastewater rate increases, Citizens will open two funds with $100,000 each. Both will assist customers who have trouble paying their bills.

“When a low income customer has difficulty paying a water or wastewater bill, we’ll be able to draw money from these funds to help them pay for their bill,” said Considine.

“This would be unprecedented for the type of assistance available for water and sewer bills in Indiana,” Swinger said.

Under a different settlement, water bills are scheduled to go up $5 a month, too. That case is awaiting final state regulatory approval. The sewer rate case will have to be formally approved by a state panel, which would likely happen in early summer.