Thousands of residents of the Wadi Ara region of the Lower Galilee are not connected to the sewage system, but are nevertheless charged a monthly sewage fee to finance the system's operation and maintenance.
After repeated efforts to get the charge dropped have proved fruitless, they are now preparing a lawsuit against the water and sewage corporations and the Water Authority.
For over a year now, the regional water and sewage corporation, known as Irron, has been charging them the sewage fee. Yet not only are many areas, including one of the largest neighborhoods of Kafr Kara, not connected to the sewage system, there are not even any plans to hook them up in the near future.
Instead, residents dispose of their sewage in cesspits, just as they have always done. One Kafr Kara resident said they pay a local contractor NIS 500 a month to clean out the cesspit and transfer the contents to a sewage treatment plant.
But in addition, they must also pay hefty fees to Irron. According to the resident, the average family's bimonthly fee comes to NIS 700-900, for sewer and water service.
Dozens of residents have complained to Irron and demanded that it cancel the fee; they have also complained to the Water Authority, which oversees the water and sewage corporations. But with no relief forthcoming, they have decided to pursue legal action to demand that the payments stop and to recoup what they have already paid.
Yunes Jad, Irron's chief financial officer, said the law does not allow the corporation to distinguish between water and sewage fees, such that residents who aren't hooked up to the sewage system could be charged for their water usage only.
"There is indeed a problem, and we've brought it to the Water Authority's attention," he said. "In the past, I had discretion, so we didn't collect money from people who aren't hooked up. But today, we have no such discretion; it's a unified fee."
The Water Authority said that "household water prices are uniform nationwide and by law include every component of the cost of the water, including routine maintenance and operation and repairing existing infrastructure. In areas where there is as yet no sewage system, the corporation must work with due diligence to connect the customers to the sewage infrastructure. But until it does so, it's the corporation's responsibility to clean out the cesspits."
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