Sewer overflow warning in effect


The snow and rain we've had over the past two days has prompted a raw sewage overflow warning. That means it's potentially dangerous to come in contact with water from Indianapolis rivers and creeks.

It's also the reason Citizens Energy says they need to update the sewage system, which will mean higher utility bills.

This is a chronic problem. Every time it rains more than a quarter of an inch, or snows, as it has in the last couple of days, raw sewage flows into Indianapolis waterways, including Fall Creek.

It's dangerous to fish or to come in contact with the water for at least the next four days.

On Tuesday, we found raw sewage being dumped into Fall Creek. More than five-billion gallons of sewage ends up in our waterways every year.

If this seems like something that would be done in the 18 or 1900's, that's because it was.

Indianapolis' combined storm water and sewage system is more than 100 years old and, according to Citizens Water and the Environmental Protection Agency, must be updated. That will cost millions and take years, but it will transform these waterways.

"It will become a place where the water is 95% cleaner than it is right now," explained Sarah Holsapple of Citizens Energy. "And so people will be able to fish and boat and people will be able to build commercial properties or residential properties on the White River and Fall Creek."

Construction of massive tunnels is underway. These will be used to store sewage on heavy rain days so it can be treated and won't run into waterways.

Cleaning up the waterways is pricey, and everyone who has a water or sewer bill will pay for it. If a rate hike is approved, it will cost about $17 more per month, beginning next year.

Rate hikes will continue for years after that.