Study Shows Higher Sewer Rates Favored in Pennsylvania

June 7, 2002
Reliable sewer and water systems are high priorities for most Pennsylvanians and the majority are willing to pay more to fund needed repairs, according to new survey results released this week by an environmental committee of the state Legislature.

The statewide telephone survey found that 55 percent of those interviewed favored increasing spending to maintain or upgrade public sewer and water systems and slightly more than half of those said they'd be willing to pay up to $2 more a month to provide the needed funding. State borrowing to pay for the work was supported by more than 22 percent.

"We were surprised that of those in favor of spending more to fix sewer and water problems, a majority would prefer to do so using money from a rate increase instead of drawing against a bond issue," said Geoff MacLaughlin, a spokesman for the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee.

The committee has conducted hearings on the combined sewer overflow problems that other independent studies have estimated will cost $3 billion to fix in Allegheny County and as much as $10 billion in southwestern Pennsylvania. It has recommended that the state borrow money through a bond issue to fund some of the water and sewer system work.

More than 75 percent of the 1,700 people responding to Mansfield University's annual "The Public Mind" survey get their water from a public system and a little more than two-thirds are on a public sewage system.

The survey also polled Pennsylvanians about recycling and trash issues and found more than 71 percent support renewal of the state's $2 per ton recycling fee, which is scheduled to end in 2004 unless reauthorized by the Legislature.

Almost 90 percent favored limiting the dumping of out-of-state-trash in Pennsylvania, and 65 percent would be willing to pay an extra $2 more each month for trash disposal to cover the costs of increased tipping fees at landfills.

Several bills have already been introduced in the Legislature that would raise the tipping fees by $2 to $5 a ton. Such a tipping fee increase to support a dedicated environmental fund would cost the average household a little more than $12 a year.

"We got a strong response to limiting out-of-state-trash, as expected," MacLaughlin said. He added that Pennsylvania's tipping fees are now significantly lower than many surrounding states.

Source: Post-Gazette