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Kinston Residents Told They'll Pay for Sewer Violations

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KINSTON — It's a public relations and environmental nightmare for the city of Kinston. Since 1994, Kinston has been fined for 33 sewer violations. Now, the city says residents will have to pay to fix it.

The recent string of sewage spills has Kinston resident Annie Miller embarrassed for her hometown.

"It's very embarrassing and i wish the situation could get cleaned up," said Miller.

City officials say heavy rains were too much for the town's dilapidated sewer pipes, forcing thousands of gallons of untreated waste onto surrounding wetlands. Even before this spill, the city was hit with the state's largest municipal fine in history for an earlier mess.

"We're trying to turn that plant around," said Kinston spokesperson Carolyn Kusbit Dunn. "We're perfectly aware that there's a problem. It sits on the flood plain. It's an old plant and it's subject to wash-through when we get heavy rains."

Kinston hopes to make good by closing down the plant with the most problems. The Northside plant, which is a few years newer, would be expanded to take all the waste.

But even this plant has its problems. Four thousand gallons of sludge spilled out last November after a city sewer employee apparently fell asleep on the job.

That employee has since left his job. The city says a newly renovated plant would prevent future problems, but residents would have to pay through a 35 percent hike in their sewer bills.

"Well me, i work like a six dollar an hour job. People like me really can't afford many more costs of living," said Kinston resident Adam Bradshaw.

Kinston wants to raise taxes seven percent a year for the next five years.