Activists Call On Alcosan to Create Customer Assistance Program for Low-Income Residents

Mar 23, 2015

Rev. Vincent Cole of Sixth Presbyterian Church in Squirrel Hill speaks at Monday's rally.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Alcosan rates are set to increase 11 percent in 2016 and again in 2017, and activists with the Clean Rivers Campaign and Action United are calling on the sanitary authority to implement a Customer Assistance Program, or CAP, to help low-income rate payers.

Activists held a rally in Market Square Monday afternoon, handing out fliers alerting passers-by to “skyrocketing sewer rates.”

The rate increases are part of Alcosan’s plan to pay for $2 billion in system upgrades, as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and come on top of an 11 percent hike in 2015 and a 17 percent hike in 2014.

But Ron Smart of West View said his bill increased more than 11 percent over the last year.

“In January last year, my sewer bill was $134, $52 of which went to Alcosan. In January this year, my bill is $187, $81 of which goes to Alcosan. That’s an increase of 55 percent,” Smart said. “If that keeps up, I’m not going to be able to afford my sewer bill.”

Clean Rivers Campaign Director Jennifer Kennedy said activists have attended Alcosan’s board meetings and public hearings over the last several months, and will attend this Thursday’s board meeting as well.

“They said they had a consultant working on it, but that contract has ended, so we'd like to see them renew an effort to create a Customer Assistance Program and fund it, and that’s what we’re going to be asking for on Thursday,” Kennedy said.

The proposed CAP would be similar to programs at Duquesne Light, Equitable Gas and other utility companies in the region.

Alcosan declined to comment for this story.