Candidates for the Akron City Council talked frequently about sewer rates during the campaign last year. They heard from residents concerned about the rate increases required to cover an $838 million fix to the city’s outdated combined sewer system. Of late, the expense has climbed to an estimated $1.4 billion.

Almost all of the candidates argued for an alternative that would ease the certain rate increases. And that is what Mayor Don Plusquellic is seeking to deliver. He is pursuing an “integrated plan” through the federal Environmental Protection Agency, an approach that includes an affordability factor linked to median household income. The plan deploys “green infrastructure,” such things as permeable pavement, rain gardens and man-made wetlands. These items are less costly than a mile-long tunnel or massive basins to keep storm water separate from sewage.

The mayor has put forward legislation that would move the city toward an integrated plan. The proposed sewer rate increase is steep, for sure, the monthly bill for a typical customer jumping from $34 to $57 during the next two years. What council members should keep in mind is that the increase would be higher without an integrated plan in place. In that way, the mayor has addressed their wish.

Worth attention, too, is that this challenge isn’t something that city officials and council members can duck somehow. The federal government long ago helped with a substantial share of the cost in meeting its mandate. No more, and neither will the state assist in a significant way.

As the mayor aptly put at the council meeting on Monday: “There is not an easy answer.”

What the legislation would do is put the city in position to continue covering the cost of improvements already made to the combined sewer system, and to move ahead with additional upgrades, starting with design and engineering. More, council approval would send a necessary signal to the federal EPA, and the courts overseeing the matter, that the city is serious about following through with an integrated plan.

Thus, if the council wants to address the concerns of the campaign, it must approve the ordinance when it meets next week. The proposal represents a better way, including the component of devising a discount program for those with low incomes, akin to the Home Energy Assistance Program. Council members rightly have asked questions, and taken care to weigh options. Surely, they have noted, too, the upside in the end. The Akron area will benefit greatly from a cleaner Cuyahoga River and related waterways.