City council approves $2 billion deal with EPA to address chronic pollution

The bad news first - if you live in Houston, your water bill will be going up.

The good news?

In exchange for higher rates, the City of Houston is guaranteeing you and the federal government it will fix the failing infrastructure responsible for chronic sewer spills, mostly in flood events.

"This was going to happen. The question was what was going to be the solution and what was going to be the cost?" said Mayor Sylvester Turner minutes after a near unanimous vote by city council approving a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

The price tag for the mandated improvements is $2 billion over 15 years. Turner claims the deal he cut was for two-thirds less than the feds were demanding just three years ago.

"What we've been successful at doing is coming up with a cost efficient system that will have the least impact on rate payers in the City of Houston," said Turner.

So, when will Houston folks see that first hike in their water bill? The mayor says it won't happen until next April.

And while she couldn't yet say how much, Houston's Public Works Director Carol Haddock assured rate payers the higher cost of service will not exceed the two percent of median household income, which the EPA considers the most residents can reasonably absorb.

"Every indication that we have is that we'll still be well within the realm of affordability," said Haddock.

Meanwhile, after years of wait, worry and ultimately legal action, environmental advocates voiced both support and reservation.

"Will this future proof us enough to prevent this problem from happening again?" asked Jordan Macha of Bayou City Waterkeeper.