WHY ARE SEWER RATES UNFAIR?
Hamilton County and the City of Cincinnati are under a Consent Decree to improve our obsolete Combined Sewers that spew 8 billion gallons per year of untreated sewage and stormwater into our waterways. The Consent Decree sewer fixes, estimated to cost about $4 billion, are largely funded through sewer rates and bonds.
Currently, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) has an archaic rate structure based on water usage instead of the actual burden on our combined sewers. 65% of the wastewater MSD currently treats is stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is what overwhelms combined sewers, causing overflows into our waterways and basement backups that continue to plague residents all over Hamilton County. So, it doesn't make sense to charge the bulk of the sewer rate based on water usage, which isn't the cause of overflows. We should be funding our sewer improvements equitably, in a way that reflects actual burden on our sewers.
Exacerbating the problem with inequitable rates, big users automatically get a 20% discount, costing residential ratepayers an estimated $17 million per year. So, the majority of ratepayers are further subsidizing big users, while we fail to implement assistance programs for the ratepayers in actual need, like low-income homeowners and renters, seniors, persons with disabilities and those experiencing temporary hardships. The subsidy for bulk users comes in the form of a base rate structure (roughly $40/mo) that systematically results in overcharging nearly half of all users.
We are recommending the Hamilton County Commissioners, as the rate-setting authority for the MSD, make the following changes to our sewer rate structure:
- Reduce base rate charges immediately;
- Eliminate the bulk rate discounts for large users that creates a disincentive to water conservation;
- Fund Consent Decree with impervious surface charges and other stormwater-related fees;
- Implement financial incentives for stormwater abatement for all property owners; and
- Work to expand Customer Assistance programs for those in need.
In 2020, our Sewer Justice Team won a 6th consecutive year for now new sewer rate increase, a change to the rules to allow sewer backup victims more time to report backups, and launched the Fair Sewer Rates Coalition. Join us first Saturdays of each month to discuss how we will keep the momentum going in 2021 for Sewer Justice to:
- Get our sewers fixed first in neighborhoods hardest hit by sewer backups and overflows; and
- Make sewer rates fair and affordable for everyone.
Join us, because you can make a difference for Sewer Justice.
Community Group Calls for Increased Regulator Oversight of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD)
Cincinnati, Ohio – Frustrated by fighting over the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) between the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Communities United For Action (CUFA) turned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) for help with sewer issues.
CUFA Board Member Erica Johnson opened the November 9 meeting, “We’ve convened this public forum because our neighborhoods are being left behind in the plans to fix the sewers. We are more than a billion dollars into this project and not only are people struggling financially, they are struggling with damage to their homes and lives.” CUFA highlighted sewer issues in Bond Hill, Muddy Creek, Covedale, and the Ludlow Run Watershed area of Northside.Read more
CINCINNATI - After years of delayed sewer fixes caused by infighting between the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) ordered the City and County to move forward with plans they agreed to a decade ago.
Are you tired of high sewer rates and overflowing sewers?
Our sewer bills have increased 234% since 2000. The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) has been collecting our hard earned money since 2006 to spend it on a $3.2 billion dollar project called Project Groundwork. Project Groundwork is the response to a consent decree from the EPA (Environmental Projection Agency) after MSD’s Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) were found to be in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Hamilton County’s sewer system is almost 100 years old and not engineered to meet the needs of our increased population. When it rains too hard, CSOs overflow and mix raw sewage with groundwater which floods residents' basements and backyards. This project is designed to stop sewage overflows and clean up our rivers and streams. However, thousands of residents are still dealing with sewage backups and MSD doesn't have a plan for Phase II of the project to resolve overflows.
Communities United For Action has proposed the People's Sewer Justice Platform as a solution for systemic changes to make MSD more transparent and accountable and our sewers affordable for everyone.
In our campaign for #sewerjustice, CUFA has:
- Stopped new rate increases since 2015
- Won a customer assistance program for low-income senior homeowners
- Won a new reporting dashboard detailing Project Groundwork project information and finances
- Won and extension of the 24-hour reporting requirement for sewer backups to 48 hours.
Meet our Sewer Justice team. Our Sewer Justice Team meets on first Saturdays at 10AM. Contact CUFA to register for an upcoming meeting.
Take Action for Sewer Justice
For Individual Supporters
For Organizational Supporters
Are you affiliated with an organization? Endorse our People's Sewer Justice Platform.
For organizations, businesses and community groups: Endorse the demands of the Fair Sewer Rates Coalition.
Vickie Jackson, Bond Hill resident and CUFA Member said, "They [MSD] did not take ownership of [my] sewer backup. We continue to have sewer backups. We did not know about the sewer backup prevention program. They're playing off of our ignorance. It's not getting better the way things are going now. I think the only way we will get ourselves out of this is to keep working with CUFA."Read more
"Being newly retired from the University of Cincinnati, I felt that I needed to start tracking how I was spending my money. I noticed that my water usage was small, but my sewer usage was 2 and a half, almost three times what my water bill was," said Wanda Ball, College Hill resident and CUFA Member. "It just amazed me how I could have such a high bill and there's only one person living here. At that point, that was when I decided this was something I needed to protest. What I have learned is ugly. It began to make me question the system."Read more
"Communities United For Action is a way to participating in communities that were effected by sewer backups," said Florence Miller, East Clifton resident and CUFA Member. "Three feet of sewer water in the basement and the garage is nothing you want to deal with. I want MSD to be responsible for maintaining the system and fixing the system, so these sewer backups don't happen."Read more
CUFA Board Member Elder Donell Raglin said, "We had water in the basement not quite to your knees, but close. The sewage damaged a lot of personal items we had in the basement. It was terrible; everything was a disaster. MSD came in and said what they would do, [but] as of today, they haven't done anything. They made a lot of promises they didn't keep. CUFA, they've been like a life-saver and I would say, don't walk, run to CUFA." Elder Raglin experienced more sewer backups and has since moved.Read more
"I work hard for my money, and I want to see it put to good use," said Jess Enzor. "That certainly hasn't been the case with the Metropolitan Sewer District."Read more