DeKalb County residents with high water bills resulting from previously undiscovered water line leaks could get some relief from a new ordinance.
The county’s Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance on Nov. 8 that sets up a policy of forgiving some excessive water bills.
There are many circumstances that “make a high water bill a complete surprise to a constituent,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader.
“When they get surprised by that, they often end up calling their commissioner’s offices and we try to serve as their intermediary to get an appropriate and fair adjustment to that water bill based on the circumstance of the situation,” Rader said. “This ends up taking a great deal of our time from the customer service side perspective.”
“We do get a lot of complaints about high water bills,” said Commissioner Lee May. “This should provide a little additional relief.”
“This does still mean you must watch you water usage,” May said. “As you see wild swings with your water bill you should take action right then and there.”
Sometimes, an undetectable leak occurs in the underground line between the meter and the house.
“It may be leaking water with no evidence whatsoever on the surface,” Rader said. The only way a customer may discover the problem is when an unusually high water bill is received.
During a single billing cycle, if an undetectable leak is suspected because of a high bill, the customer will not be held responsible for that large bill, according to the ordinance.
“If you received no beneficial use of the water, then you shouldn’t have to pay for the water,” Rader said.
Previously, “the county’s basic policy was that if it goes through your meter, you owe for the water,” Rader said.
“We’re glad that as we’re moving forward on a capital improvement program to eliminate the wasting of water on [the county’s] side of the meter, we’re likewise also going to raise the bar on the wasting on the customer side,” Rader said.
The ordinance sets up penalties for wasting water and requires customers to fix broken systems once discovered. If a customer does not repair or report a leak “for any period of time beyond which the leak, break or malfunction reasonably should have been corrected, the county may terminate water service to the premises,” according to the ordinance.
Once the customer discovers or is made aware of the leak, he has two business days to repair the leak. If water service is cut by the county, it will not be restored until the leak is repaired and all outstanding water bills, including the administrative fees for the termination and restoration of water service, have been paid to the county,” the ordinance states.
The ordinance “gives the county the tools try to suppress the wasting of water,” Rader said.