Bill Aims To Help Some Communities With Failing Septic Systems, But More Need Support

A septic tank inspection is carried out.  - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A septic tank inspection is carried out.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

For underserved communities with failing septic tanks, it can become easier to maintain water and sewer systems. A State House bill on the matter was passed unanimously by the committee on Tuesday. However, the bill doesn’t cover everyone who needs help.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, more than 20,000 wastewater treatment plants need repair or replacement each year. Failing sewage treatment plants can divert wastewater into local streams and lakes. It can also get into drinking water wells and make people sick.

Building new water and sewer lines can be expensive.

“We regularly receive inquiries about major extensions. We do the numbers. Unfortunately, it is too expensive for these people to be able to afford to pay those in developed areas, where the cost is often high, “said Justin Schneider, director of consumer affairs for Indiana American Water.

This bill would allow a utility company to forego these costs for underserved communities and instead increase prices for its existing customers. The utility company would have to show that adding these new customers would bring prices down again in the long run.

READ MORE: How Do I Watch Indiana’s Legislative Session? Here is your guide to demystifying the process

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Write “Indiana” to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text will help us find the answers you need about COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

Representative Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) supports the bill. But because it only applies to investor-owned utility companies, it doesn’t cover many people septic tank failure – the ones likely to be served by municipal and nonprofit sewage utilities.

“So there is a bigger talk here that I hope we can generate this session from,” said Hamilton.

Kerwin Olson is the Executive Director of the Citizens Action Coalition. He says the group also supports the ideas behind the bill, but that there is nothing that guarantees these prices will come down in the future.

A bill that would create a task force to investigate sewage problems is also working its way through the legislature.

Contact Rebecca at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project that develops Indiana-specific projections and provides informed answers to problems related to environmental change.

You might also like

Comments are closed.