Rate increases have been approved over the next two years by the Board of Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS). Mobile, Alabama residents will see a 5% increase in their water bills each year over the next two years in the city.

The rate increases have been put in place to help the city pay for replacement and repair of the aging infrastructure in the city. The city has used sewer camera inspection to help inspect sewer systems and identify which infrastructure needs replacement or repair.

The Board claims that the rate hikes will prevent sewer overflows, help the city meet regulatory requirements, ensure that customer service levels are maintained and provide safe drinking water to residents. Public health and the environment are the two key discussion points when The Board discusses rate hike increases.

Customers can expect to pay $2.25 per month in 2018. “The average water and sewer customer using approximately 5,000 gallons of water per month will see their bill increase about $2.25 from $55.80 to $58.05,” the statement reads. “Minimum bills — using 2,500 gallons or less — will see an increase of $1.43 a month from $29.90 to $31.33.”

An outside study was done to determine the cost of providing sewer and water service that is up to regulatory standards.

Mobile’s aging infrastructure has been difficult for MAWSS to maintain. The utility company continues to deal with sanitary sewer overflows. Officials claim that the estimated cost to repair or replace the infrastructure has swelled to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Aging infrastructure is plaguing cities around the country. Cities, in many circumstances, are dealing with infrastructure that was put in place in the early 1900s. The infrastructure requires extreme repairs or replacement that is often unable to be done due to a lack of government funding.

MAWSS claims that 40% of the sewers in Mobile have reached their useful life. The sewers are 50 years old or older, according to the statement. The utility claims that their assessment has found that water infiltrates the sewer system through cracks and defects. The result is a sewer system that overflows.

MAWSS has been investing heavily in infrastructure in recent years. The utility spent $35 million on five capital projects in 2016. MAWSS Director Charles Hyland states that there are only so many times that the infrastructure can be repaired or patched before it’s no longer a viable option. MAWSS claims that the repairs have reached a point where replacement is the only option going forward.

Officials approved a $62.2 million budget that includes the rate hikes. Customers in Mobile can expect to have their rates increase starting January 1. MAWSS claims that there are several projects underway that aim to help reduce sewer overflows that have plagued the city in recent weeks.

MAWSS is working on a much-needed project at a Halls Mill Creek lift station. The utility is working on an overflow basin at the station.

Residents have come out in opposition to the rate increases, stating that MAWSS has been a failure for having not corrected the issue much earlier.