1,000 signatures reached
To: Michael Thurmond and Dekalb County Board of Commissioners
Dekalb’s Water Debt Crisis: Fight for our Right to Water
In 2016, Dekalb County enacted a five-year-long moratorium in an attempt to resolve the county’s inexplicably high water bills. Although leaks, faulty meters, and infrastructural damage explained the county’s water bill spikes, Dekalb residents were forced to bear the burden, sometimes financing up to five-figure water bills and undergoing liens on their homes. The county promised improvement when they lifted the moratorium in Fall 2022, but still, Dekalb residents are receiving insurmountable bills; Since the moratorium’s end, families were billed for use of up to 700,000 gallons of water, and people are left financing monthly water bills up to $20,000. As of now, the only protection Dekalb residents have against their water bills is filing disputes, a flawed and often hopeless process with no timeline for resolution, no explanation for bill calculations, and no communication before water disconnection. Without action, more and more Dekalb residents will not only be denied their right to water, but because of liens and financial pressure, residents will be forced out of their homes.
We the residents of Dekalb County demand the following:
Demand 1: Reinstate the Moratorium on Water Disconnections and Lien Placements. Dekalb County lifted the moratorium on water disconnections without addressing complications and improving residents’ circumstances. Residents are still receiving five-figure monthly bills, and are still being disconnected from county water. We demand that the moratorium be reinstated so that Dekalb County solves these problems without sending more families into inescapable debt.
Demand 2: Define the Dispute and Arbitration Process. The dispute and arbitration process is the only defense against unjust water bills, and the process is incredibly flawed. Even after the moratorium has been lifted, UCO representatives are inconsistent and often provide no information regarding residents’ dispute process, and Dekalb has still provided no explanation on bill calculations. Dekalb residents deserve answers and evidence.
Demand 3: Cancel Debt Now. Payment plans, or even debt relief, is not enough. Dekalb residents should not be going into debt for water they have not used or for bureaucratic failures they are not responsible for.
Why is this important?
Resident’s have been fighting against Dekalb county’s unbelievable water for over seven years. These improper bills affect parents, children, and elders. The entirety of Dekalb county feels the burden of Dekalb Water Managements’ mismanagement.
The CEO and Finance Department have a choice:
1. Collecting potentially erroneous bills that were never proven accurate by a defined process, spending more time and resources on the County, and putting residents in dire financial conditions.
2. Wiping the slate clean so residents can move forward without fear of losing access to affordable water and ultimately housing.
We can all agree that option two is what is fair and what Dekalb County residents need.
“They told me they were going to cut off my water. I’m an old woman, by myself, and you’re going to cut my water? I am afraid to take a bath.” -Aielee Peebles, 95 year old resident with high bill
“Dealing with a water bill of over $8,000 is just traumatic. Who in the world can pay over 8-grand for a water bill that I know is absolutely not true.” Randy Shute, Dekalb resident with cancer who is struggling to pay medical bills.
Dekalb co. cut my house’s water supply and took the meter away. My parents were living in my house and they don't speak any english. After CBS aired my story the County said ‘Here’s how it is: instead of $5,000, you pay $3,600. We’re not going to put back the meters.’ They are the mafia of water management. - Mai Brewer, Dekalb Resident