State lawmakers trying to help homeowners on hook for thousands to eliminate septic systems

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Homeowners on the northeast side of Indianapolis said they are being forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars to hook up to a sewer line on their street. Now, state lawmakers are stepping in to help.

It's a project they did not ask for but now neighbors on Vera Drive could be forced to pay a hefty price tag.

"It’s affecting people that literally cannot afford to be forced into something like this," said Jackie O'Nan, homeowner.

Another homeowner paid for a public sewer line to run through the street to their house. The Marion County Health Department told all the neighbors they also have to be connected, which could mean paying at least $15,000 to eliminate their septic systems.

"We would have to take out a second mortgage on the house if we had to pay $20,000 to hook up the sewer," she said.

State Senator Jim Merritt is Chair of the Utilities Committee which voted on a proposal that wouldn't force people to hook up to a sewer line if it's privately constructed and not part of a city project. It's an amendment that was added to SB472.

"Obviously it was grossly unfair that someone had to tie on to a sewer line and change from a septic through no fault of their own," he said.

By mid-May, homeowners either have to connect or apply for a five-year extension if their septic tank system is working properly. If the governor signs the bill, an emergency clause could make it into law before their May deadline.

"That was great," said O'Nan. "That was a relief to me."

SB472 passed unanimously in committee. It will head to the Senate floor next week.

Citizens Energy Group maintains public sewers. They offer the Septic Tank Elimination Program which can reduce costs to nearly $3,000. A representative for the company said these homeowners do not qualify for it because this system was privately constructed. In addition, this neighborhood has not been identified by Citizens as a high-priority area and is not part of the current STEP program.

A spokesperson for Citizens Energy Group sent us this statement on Tuesday:

Citizens Energy Group continues to work with the Marion County Health Department and the Greater Allisonville Community Council regarding the public sewer and septic systems in this area. Our attendance at tonight’s meeting continues our ongoing support of the neighborhood and will provide residents another opportunity to ask questions and share concerns.

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