Category Archives: MSD News

MSD would like to inform you that the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) will conduct an additional public hearing to consider the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati’s (MSD) recommended 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Program (CIP), 2017 Operating Budget, and a revised rate structure for sewerage service charges and surcharges.

There are two scheduled public hearings at the Hamilton County Administration Building, 138 East Court Street, Room 603, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.

There is also a a public meeting where sewer rates will be discussed but it is not an official public hearing. It is scheduled for
Monday, November 13, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at Communities United for Action (CUFA), 1814 Dreman Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45223

MSD’s annual capital improvement budget and annual operating budget are developed and recommended by MSD to the BoCC each year along with any rate or fee recommendations that support the budget proposal. The budgets and associated rate recommendations reflect the resources required to ensure full compliance with all regulatory requirements as well as to protect public health throughout Hamilton County.
View the Additional Notice of Public Hearing.

View the original Notice of Public Hearing.
MSD Communications
Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati

Cincinnati and Hamilton County rush to deal on 45-year County take-over of Sewer District

Infighting between Cincinnati and Hamilton County has gotten in the way of implementing sewer consent decree projects that would clean some of the worst polluted water in the United States. By the Sewer Districts own reckoning, over 8 billion gallons of untreated sewage mixed with rain water, go into the Ohio River, Mill Creek and Muddy Creek. The Sewer District continually violates the Clean Water Act, exceeds standards by millions and continues to maintain illegal Sanitary Sewer Overflows.

Sierra Club remains concerned that the creation of a new five-member board of City of Cincinnati (2) and Hamilton County (3) appointed members to oversee operations, recreates the same potential for conflict. “Supermajorities” (4of 5) are required for major decisions; supermajority requirements tend to prevent, rather than encourage projects. The commitment letter seeks to let the City out of the consent decree, yet maintains a level of control that could interfere with consent decree work. These delays will add to the City’s prediction that a number of consent decree projects will already be late. The importance of the consent decree work needs to have primacy in the new agreement, but currently doesn’t. At the same time, the commitment letter also leaves the dispute about asset ownership up in the air.

We sought to have the deadline extended to allow for more consideration of this 45-year deal to fix it and allow other options to be explored. While the deadline was extended from the original 1 week, it did not allow sufficient time for the public to be more fully informed and consider other options.

The mediation between the City and County, which led to the commitment letter, was under a gag order by the judge assigned to the consent decree. The next set of projects to be completed by the Sewer District, under the consent decree, were due to US EPA on June 30. The County requested, and may still want, a one year delay in submitting this set of commitments for work that begins in 2019. US EPA, at this point, has granted a 4-month extension until October 31, 2017. Bizarrely, the City and County will not release even a draft of the Phase 2 plan for public review (beyond the list created in 2010 which has most likely changed in at least some respects.)

Sierra Club is also concerned about the status of verbal commitments made by the current management to businesses and residents about sewer projects. Will they be honored by the future management?

Thanks to diligent and fast work by Sierra Club attorneys and many members of the public, some changes were made to the commitment letter, over the weekend before the Monday morning vote. Sierra Club offered draft language, some of which was accepted. We appreciate members of Council and the Commission’s willingness to meet and discuss issues of concern about this 45 year agreement.

Call city council and county commission about the proposed MSD agreement !

Call city council and county commission about the proposed MSD agreement !

Many concerns still exist about the new city /county proposal for running the Sewer District. This agreement will last for 45 years so it is important to take the time to get it right!

  1. The requirements for board decision-making (supermajority) will stall the implementation of the consent decree and lead to more sewer backups into homes and businesses.
  2. There is no need to rush the deal and cut off public participation — there are options that also accommodate the need to reassure the bond market.
  3. Any other issues from the Sierra Club letter or your personal experience.

Please call (or email) the following and ask them to allow time to review and amend the agreement.

Commissioner Denise Driehaus 946-4406 [email protected]
Commissioner Todd Portune 946-4401 [email protected]
Council member Yvette Simpson 352-5260 [email protected]
Council member PG Sittenfeld 352-5270 [email protected]
Council member Chris Seelbach 352-5210 [email protected]
Council member Charles Winburn 352-5354 [email protected]
Council member Wendell Young 352-3466 [email protected]
Council member Chris Smitherman 352-3464 [email protected]
Council member Kevin Flynn 352-4550 [email protected]

Check out Sierra Club’s  letter about the MSD commitment letter. 2017-08-07 Sierra Club and M. Wall Review of Proposed MSD Agreement

See the City and County Commitment Letter –>1013-Notice-of-Filing-Letter.pdf for their rough outline of the 45 year deal.  See what Sierra Club thinks of the deal–>   Deep Flaws in Sewer Deal Require Your Help at Monday Evening Meeting

Recap of the February Inning “Open Forum on Environmental Issues”

This unusual Innings meeting featured three speakers, with break-out sessions for each. Marilyn Wall spoke on MSD issues; Bob Park spoke about coming global cataclysms, and Nathan Alley talking about Plastics, Pipelines and Transportation. People left motivated to take positive action to address the issues!



Say No to Another Sewer Rate Increase!


Are you tired of high sewer rates? Despite the lack of progress on court ordered improvements and failure to restructure the billing system, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) is asking for a 4.25% increase to your sewer bill.  We already have one of the most regressive rates in the country, raising the minimum charge on residential housing will only make it worse.  

Take a stand against the MSD Rate Hike, Send a letter today!

Last year we were successful at freezing rate hikes and recommending structural changes that would make the billing system fair, because people like you sent emails, made phone calls and testified at County Commissioner meetings.  Join your fellow Sierra Club members and let the Commissioners know how you feel about the rates.  

Take action today, send a letter  to the Hamilton County Commissioners!

We need to see a rate structure that reflects equity amongst all customers before rates are further increased. Together we can create change and implement a billing structure that is fair and incentivize water conservation, instead of rewarding the biggest water users with the lowest prices. 

Thank You for taking action,


placeholder_image Matt Trokan

Conservation Director

Sierra Club Ohio Chapter


How to get Help with Sewer Backups

Super storm of August 28, 2016 Flooding and Sewage basement backups.  If you experienced a backup of sewage (probably mixed with stormwater) the first step is to call the Metropolitan Sewer District 352-4900 and report it.  You can still report backups. MSD is responsible for cleanup (if you did the cleanup yourself you can be reimbursed), pay damages and prevent future backups.

If you could not attend or your questions were not addressed you can call the Ombudsman office which was set up by the Court, at no charge to you, to insure that the MSD Sewage in basement backups are cleaned up, claims are paid and future damage is prevented.  The Ombudsman with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati’s number is (513) 362-2801.

Read more about the Sewage in Basement backup prevention.

MSD 2017 rate increase, capital and operating budget hearings

Hamilton County has announced public hearings on the rates, operating budget and capital budget.

Here are dates and ways to comment:

The Hamilton County Commission has announced that it will conduct public hearings on the Metropolitan Sewer District  (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati’s 2017 – 2021 Capital Improvement Budget, Operating Budget for 2017 and consider a revised rate structure for MSD service charges and surcharges.

The hearings are scheduled for Wednesday December 7, 2016, at 11:30 am and Wednesday December 14, 2016, at 11:30 am, 138 East Court Street, Room 603, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.

Comments can be made at the hearing or in writing to the Clerk of the Board, [email protected]

Commissioners’ emails are [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

The files which MSD submitted to the county for the budgets and rates are here.   The MSD rate study is here: MSDGC-2016-Rate-Study-Draft-Final-Report_30SEP2016.pdf

The county monitor team and MSD have been working on the rates and budgets for almost 3 months now.  In September and October 2016, the commissioners passed several resolutions directing MSD and their staff to modify the rate structure or provide the necessary study/data to determine changes like stormwater runoff charges. But most of that work isn’t done and the most recent information is that MSD won’t have the billing system modified even by the end of the first quarter for the simplest changes.

So, we don’t know the how much the budget and rate documents have changed. The first rate increase documents indicated a 5.25 % increase; the rate study says 4.25%.  The county might be looking at 4%.  Muddying the waters further, the August 28 storm expected to total more than $20 million in damages, due to basement backups and sewer collapses. This impacted the MSD operating budget for 2016, probably reducing the amount of debt service paid.  The rate implications of that aren’t clear at all.

So despite the amount of information we have, it isn’t very clear, where this is headed.

Update on Sewage Backups in Basements

Sewage backups in basements

Prior to the 2004 federal consent decree, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati often considered backups of sewage into basements and onto property to be “acts of God” and usually did not pay claims, help with cleanups or prevent future backups.

As part of filing its own suit and intervening in the federal lawsuit filed by the DOJ, Sierra Club made the judge aware that sewage had backed up into thousands of homes and businesses. People were suffering repeated backups and damage to their property due to the inadequacies of the sewer system. MSD is now under court orders to fix these problems.

The judge required MSD to

  • clean up basements,
  • pay damages claims, (including loss of property value) and
  • prevent future backups.

MSD is required to pay for these sewage back-ups from system inadequacies, not the property owner or renter.

The Court also established an appeals process that those with backups can use if their claims are denied. Here are the steps to use:

Backups should be reported to MSD, 513-352-4900 and can also be reported online at

(Note: MSD’s program used to be called Water in Basement. The SBU, Sewer Backup Program, is the same program. )

The federal court also appointed Legal Aid to be the “Ombudsman” for the program – to look out for the rights of those damaged, if they do not want to hire their own lawyer. Legal Aid can be reached at 362-2801. The Ombudsman can help you with questions about the program and the appeals process, if your claim is denied by MSD. The Ombudsman’s assistance is free of charge.

It is very important to understand the procedures MSD has established for making claims and making sure your basement is properly cleaned up. Sewage carries disease-causing pathogens and other threats to human and animal health.

Sierra Club has an ongoing interest in the effectiveness of this program.

If you are having trouble getting help from MSD, you can also call Sierra Club at 513-861-4001. You may have to leave a message, so please leave an address and phone number where you can be reached.

Sierra Club 513-861-4001

coming changes to the MSD rate structure

County Commissioners begin addressing MSD rate structure

During September and October 2016, the Hamilton County Commission passed the following resolutions and requested that MSD begin implementation as soon as possible.

  • Billing residential customers monthly
  • Basing the multifamily billing on meter size rather than the number of units
  • Billing based on actual meter size rather than pipe size
  • Increasing awareness of lateral line insurance
  • Establishing a customer billing appeals process
  • Reducing the current monthly charge based on 5 ccf of water to 3 ccf.

The monthly billing will be based on 1/3 of the current quarterly billing for residential customers. This is a reduction from $59.54/month to $39.12. About 30% of customers use less than 5 ccf that was previously part of a monthly bill. That is they were paying for water discharged to the sewer system that they were not using.

More work is in progress. Each of the Commissioners’ resolution included setting up a framework to encourage the use of Green/Sustainable Infrastructure and reducing the inflow and infiltration of stormwater. The County Monitor Team is charged with working with MSD to get the necessary data to determine stormwater charges, and green infrastructure incentives. Separating the volume charge out of the minimum charge will likely encourage more water conservation and possibly non-potable water reuse. This will affect revenue – and some level of treatment costs. The Commission is discussing phasing in such changes so that the billing rate can properly reflect the needed revenue. Work is also being done on developing the low-income / hardship billing assistance.

Sierra Club supports addressing the stormwater charge and green infrastructure as soon as possible. We also support eliminating the volume discount that big industries get for use of large volumes of water.