Belleville, St. Louis facing historically expensive sewer upgrades

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by Chris Stanford / News 4 | @StanfordKMOV

KMOV.com

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 6:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 3 at 7:00 PM

(KMOV.com) – Residents in Belleville are facing sewer rates that are doubling over 10 years as officials upgrade an aging infrastructure.

The EPA is on a mission focused on communities across the country where waste water is backing up into streams and the basements of homes.

The federal agency has issued an edict to town officials: Fix it, or face steep federal fines.

Unfortunately, the city doesn’t have the funds to complete the project without raising rates.

“We don’t have the money upfront to do this,” said Belleville Alderman Joe Hayden. “I don’t know any municipality that has the money to do this upfront.”

Belleville isn’t alone in facing an infrastructure that needs updating.

This edict also includes St. Louis city and County, and the Metropolitan Sewer District is spending billions to comply.  

“For us it’s historic,” said MSD spokesperson Lance LeComb. “It’s the largest capital project we’ve ever had in our history.”

To pay for the $4.7 billion project, MSD is also passing the cost onto customers.

Rates have already doubled over the past 10 years and will double again by the year 2020.

“We want to show the community, that when those rates go up, we want them to understand where their dollars are going and be transparent in everything that we do,” LeComb said. “While we’re cleaning up the environment and protecting customers, we want to be sure we’re being transparent in our fiscal operations and our accountability to the public.”

While the cost is historically high, the alternative could be worse.

“Sewer overflows contain untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, debris.  They contribute pathogens and other pollutants to surface waters, and can impact environmental life as well as human health,” says EPA Environmental Protection Specialist Tony Petruska.

Utilities that do not comply with EPA regulations can face fines up to $27,500 per day, per violation, says Petruska

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