Homeowners upset at paying for service they don’t use

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Some homeowners who live on Hollinger’s Island in Mobile County will soon find another charge on their water bill from the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service. The charge is for sewer service that many of them don’t even use.

Homeowner Andy Carlson read part of the letter he received from MAWSS.

“…will start billing the minimum, 19 dollars and 88 cents for sewer availability.”

The new charge is not being received well for people who have relied on a septic tank for years.

“I think it’s a rip-off,” said Glen Stad. “I think it’s a rip-off…I mean they’re talking thousands of dollars.”

Homeowner Richard Mallini said, “I mean the septic tank’s been there since 1968 of 69…it’s worked fine. I think we’ve only had to have it pumped one time in 50 years.”

Another part of the problem for these homeowners is the cost of hooking up the sewer system. It could cost thousands of dollars. The cost is dependent on how far their homes are from the mainline of the system, and many homes are set well back on the edge of Mobile Bay.

But charging a fee for a service these homeowners don’t even use has been perfectly legal in Alabama for years. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in the mid-1990s that even those not hooked up to the sewer system received an indirect benefit of it being there since the utility uses the money to expand and upgrade the system and eliminate pollution. A MAWSS spokesperson said the utility has not been charging the fee until recently.

Still, Carlson says, “I would prefer not to pay for a service that I’m not utilizing.”

However, because many of the septic systems in this part of the county are aging, they know the day may come.

“If and when I have an issue with that septic tank then I’ll have to hook up to it.  and pay the outrageous cost,” said Carlson.

A spokesperson for MAWSS declined an on-camera interview for this story but did tell us the money these residents pay for the sewage service they don’t use, will be held in escrow and can be used to offset the costs of hooking up to the system when they decide to.

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