On Oct. 27, the Alcosan board voted to establish a customer assistance program (CAP) for residents who are unable to pay their rising sewer bills ( “Help on the way for Alcosan customers struggling with rate increases” ). The Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network commends Alcosan for taking these positive steps to help low-income ratepayers have access to clean water for their families.
The real test, however, will be how many low-income ratepayers the CAP is actually going to help. Across Pennsylvania, research reveals that the best CAPs incorporate the input of ratepayers and service providers so that the implementation process meets the needs of those that these programs seek to serve.
And it is not only sewer bills that will be increasing as the largest capital infrastructure project in the history of Western Pennsylvania commences construction; water bills will be increasing as well — for decades. It is PIIN's hope that Alcosan will continue to exercise community leadership and use its influence to spread the idea of customer assistance so that low-income ratepayers can afford to pay their increasing water bills as well.
Access to clean water is a right of all of our citizens. It should never be a commodity.
The Rev. Vincent Kolb
The writer is pastor of Sixth Presbyterian Church in Squirrel Hill and a member of the Ratepayer Justice Task Force of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (piin.org).