17,000 Atlanta homes could have their water cut off early next year

ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta is planning on cracking down on those who haven’t paid their water bills early next year.

The city has run up a huge balance of unpaid residential water and sewer bills.

Channel 2 Action News previously told you the city’s uncollected bills totaled nearly $130 million, which is more than 100 times the totals for larger water systems in Cobb and Gwinnett counties.

More than half of that uncollected total is for residential accounts.

[RELATED: The city of Atlanta has about $130 million in uncollected water and sewer bills]

The city is now giving a six-month notice that if it remains unpaid, they may start shutting the water off.

“I wish it was going to start earlier,” said Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook.

Shook requested a briefing from the watershed after it was found the city was missing out on $130 million. New numbers given to Channel 2′s Richard Belcher are the result of that inquiry.

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During the first 10 months of the current billing year, they city collected 99% of what it billed and 89% of all accounts are currently paid up.

On the flip side, nearly 17,000 Atlanta households have delinquent water and sewer bills totaling nearly $71 million.

For those 17,000 households, the city is expected to begin shutoffs in early 2022.

“You know, there’s a whole safety net for people who come in, challenge their bills, you know, question their fees and all of that. That’s not going away,” Shook told Belcher. “But we do need to get back to where payment is something other than voluntary.”

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The city has also acknowledged that it will never collect all of those unpaid bills and may have to write off as much as 50% of the outstanding total, which means the city could lose up to $65 million.

Shook says Atlanta has an outstanding debt of $2 billion for water and sewer work, as well as a huge total of uncollected bills, which he says send the wrong message to Wall Street.

“And what happens if we go to the market to try to take advantage or a refinance or try to get some new money and Wall Street says, ‘Now wait a minute? Because you’re not collecting?’ Because you’re not collecting,” he said.

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The city says there will be a final amnesty program this fall for those with residential water accounts to give people a chance to eliminate late fees and set up a payment plan.

The 2022 shut-offs will begin with those who are delinquent by at least a year.