Cincinnati, Ohio – Yesterday evening wrapped up a series of public hearings with the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners on a proposal for a Customer Assistance Program to help people afford their sewer bills and on the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD) existing Sewer Back Up response program (SBU).

Communities United For Action (CUFA) members heard conflicting statements during the hearings about whether overland flooding is covered under the SBU program. Commissioner Portune said at the March 15 hearing in Norwood, “let me clarify the issue of overland flooding: if the flooding occurs because of a sewer capacity issue, it is covered.” At a March 26 hearing, MSD official Mary Lynn Loder told the audience that the SBU program “does not cover overland flooding.”

Residents testified from all over the county in the hearings about the lack of affordability, the difficulty of the transition during high heating bill months to monthly billing for water and sewers and about their experiences with sewer backups.

MSD and the County say that they are still in negotiations with the City about the project schedule for Phase 2 of Project Groundwork, even though a draft of the plan is overdue with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  At the hearings, Commissioner Portune offered a list of “bridge projects” that would be initiated in the absence of a finalized plan for Phase 2.

During the hearing on April 10 at CUFA, Commissioners committed to having a Customer Assistance Program (CAP) in the budget for MSD for 2019. MSD has been studying rate affordability since 2011 and a CAP was recommended by the Rate Affordability Task Force in 2016.

During that same hearing, MSD committed to having a process for public input into their plans for Phase 2.

CUFA submitted the following recommendations for Customer Assistance, the SBU program and for public input into MSD’s Project Groundwork:

April 10 letter to Hamilton County – hearing feedback