CLAIRTON (KDKA) — People who live in Clairton say they have a big problem. Their sewage bills have been going up over the past three years – drastically.

Many have seen their sewage bills increase from around $30 per month to $100 per month. Some families’ bills are even higher.

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The new, increased bills are out of reach for many senior citizens and the working poor.

The Clairton Municipal Authority is seeing the effects, too. They’re now sending out about 100 shut-off notices every month.

People are being forced to move to other communities because of the increasing costs. But officials say they have no choice but to raise rates.

So why the increase? Clairton is under orders to stop dumping raw sewage into the Monongahela River.

The Authority needs to repair its sewer lines and build a new treatment plant, or be fined by the state and federal governments. Officials say they’re having trouble paying for the improvements, because they aren’t getting money to help with the project.

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The idea isn’t unheard of. It’s called an “unfunded mandate.” In other words, a project that must be done, but without any additional monetary help.

That leaves communities to make up the gap in funding. Ultimately, the cost gets passed on to customers.

Some people are taking drastic measures to try to cut their sewer bills.

“People are using buckets to go to the bathroom because they don’t want to flush their toilets,” says Claudia Cooley. “They’re not taking their medicine. They’re not going to the doctors. They’d rather go without and pay that sewage bill so they don’t get their water turned off.”

Cooley is on a mission to raise awareness about the issue. She says she won’t give up until the government hears her plea and helps the people of Clairton.

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