Monday, August 15, 2011

Editorial: MSD rate increase worth the price in clean water, economic benefit:
In a series of public hearings over the next month, area residents will have an opportunity to be heard about the massive rate increase coming to area sewer bills over the next several years.

Because the Metropolitan Sewer District failed to upgrade its system for decades, it is being forced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to spend more than $4 billion in the next couple of decades doing what it should have been doing all along.

The status quo is what results when one of the oldest and largest sewer systems in the country doesn't keep up with growth. In heavy rains, MSD's combined stormwater-sanitary sewer system dumps raw sewage into rivers, basements and backyards. That hasn't been permitted for decades, but MSD had not gotten around to fixing it.

Folks testifying at public hearings should remember: It's not all MSD's fault.

It's our fault, too, and the fault of our parents, for not doing what our grandparents and great-grandparents did before us: Agree to tax themselves at a reasonable level to pay for the infrastructure that will enable future growth.

Nobody will be happy about having sewer rates double in the next 20 years, and then double again a decade or so after that. But even when MSD bills rise from their current average of $27 to more than $80 per month when all the work is done, they still will be below the rates that many people pay in cities of comparable size to St. Louis.

And this is what the public will get in return: clean, safe water and one of the most massive economic development and jobs projects in our city's history.
Billions of dollars will be spent beginning next year on reconstructing the country's fourth-largest sewer system. That means an infusion of construction jobs, engineering contracts, concrete work and all the ancillary economic benefits of $4.7 billion in spending.

For political reasons, our community put off this work for decades. Now it's time to pay the piper. When our region needs an economic boost, investing in a massive construction project that will make our water clean for the next generation makes good sense.

To make the project work and deliver immediate economic benefits, voters — probably in next April's municipal elections — will need to approve a bond issue of around $1 billion. Otherwise, the work will be delayed, take longer and cost even more.
By the Editorial Board, August 13, 2011

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