Bill To Help Underserved Communities Connect To Water, Sewer Headed To Holcomb's Desk

Apr 19, 2021

A septic tank getting pumped. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

A bill that aims to help communities with failing septic systems connect to city water and sewer service is heading to Governor Holcomb’s desk.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, more than 20,000 septic systems in Indiana need to be repaired or replaced every year. Failing septic systems can leak wastewater into local streams and lakes. It can also get into drinking water wells and make people sick.

But hooking up to new water and sewer service is expensive. House Bill 1287 would allow a utility to waive the cost for that service for underserved communities and raise rates on its existing customers instead.

The company would have to show that adding these new customers would bring rates back down in the long run. But consumer advocates say there’s nothing in the bill that guarantees that.

The bill also only applies to large, investor-owned utilities. Most Hoosiers with septic tanks are served by smaller municipal and nonprofit wastewater utilities.

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

HB 1287 was recently amended to allow people who live in conservancy districts to take action to get their property removed from the district so that they may get hooked up to sewer service. 

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.