Sewer Bills Could More Than Double - NBC Southern California

Sewer Bills Could More Than Double

The City of Los Angeles needs $2 billion to repair its aging sewer system

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    Sewer Bills Could More Than Double
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    Los Angeles families could see their sewer bills increase by as much as 77 percent over the next ten years if the Los Angeles City Council approves a new fee increase Wednesday.

    The proposal, unanimously approved Monday by the Budget and Finance Committee, seeks to raise $2 billion in revenue to improve the city's aging 6700 mile sewer system and water treatment plants.

    "This plan will allow us to ensure that the city's aging sewer system gets the critical upgrades it needs while also easing the impact to ratepayers over a longer period of time,'' Councilman Tony Cardenas said.

    Under the proposal, the city would raise fees by 4.5 percent a year from 2012 to 2015, and an additional 6.5 percent in 2016 and 2017.

    That would raise the monthly sanitation bill for the average family from about $30 to more than $53 after 10 years.

    About 2260 miles of the city's sewer pipes are 80-years-old and near the end of their lifespan, according to Councilman Cardenas' office.

    Bureau of Sanitation Director Enrique Zaldivar said the system's outlook would be "very bleak" if more money was not allocated for repairs.

    In the 1980s and '90s, the city had an average of two sewage spills a day, creating severe public health hazards and at times necessitating the closure of public beaches. As part of a series of lawsuit settlements brought by environmental organizations, the EPA, and others, the city was ordered to redo its sewer system, Zaldivar said.

    Heal the Bay Water Quality Director Kirsten James said the Bureau of Sanitation had radically improved its performance since then. Today there are about two per week.

    Over the past 20 years, the city has kept customer rates mostly flat, borrowing to fund improvements and emergency repairs. It receives more than $1 billion in federal clean-water grants to help cover the rising cost of infrastructure repairs to sewers and water treatment plants.

    The proposed rate increase would also create a fund to help property owners fix unexpected sewer system breaks by offering low interest loans to offset costs.

    Property owners are responsible for sewer lines between homes and the main line, and the fund would help cover those costs, which can run upwards of $20,000 in some cases.

    The city's sewer service rates put it at the low end of California municipalities, behind San Francisco, which charges $85 per month, and San Diego, which charges about $47 per month, according to a Bureau of Sanitation report.

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