Water customers call on DeKalb County to cancel debt

Hundreds of metro Atlanta residents say they've been fighting unjust water bills for nearly a decade.
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 6:29 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 27, 2023 at 8:05 PM EST
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DECATUR, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Hundreds of metro Atlanta residents say they’ve been fighting unjust water bills for nearly a decade. In fact, one homeowner says DeKalb County claims that she used 200,000 gallons of water in two months. That’s enough water to fill up 10 swimming pools.

Monica Villaffane finds herself cleaning up more than just dirty dishes these days, she’s been trying to clean up a messy water bill for months.

“Right now, my bill is $22,000. That’s more than I paid for my car,” Villaffane said.

She said it all began a few years ago when DeKalb County started billing her more each month for water. After she questioned the charges, she said the county told her she had a leak.

“No, no we don’t have a swimming pool, we don’t have leaks, no,” Villaffane said.

Eventually, her account went into dispute, and she didn’t receive a bill for a couple of years. While in dispute, she stopped paying between May 2017 and September 2021. Then she said the county told her again she had a leak, this time under her home.

“I had to get a special plumber to come out here to do a special test and he was like ‘there are no leaks underneath your house. He said you would have seen it in your yard,’” Villaffane said.

Villaffane said she sent the county documentation proving there was no leak. She says they deducted $6,000 from her bill and set her up on a $300 per month payment plan for the remaining $22,000.

“It’s an admission of guilt to me. To me, you know you messed up. But you don’t want to look at the whole bill, you only want to give me credit for a certain amount of months,” Villaffane said.

It’s an issue impacting several DeKalb County homeowners. They set up an Unbelievable DeKalb Water Bills Facebook page and scheduled a town hall meeting for Tuesday night calling on the county to cancel the debt that has plagued them for years.

“They bounce the issues back and forth. They say ‘we can’t help you so let me put you to this person,’ then this person can’t help you and it’s exhausting,” Villaffane said.

The county says Villaffane received a $6,427.06 credit after a pressure reducing valve was installed.

DeKalb County says all residents with unresolved water billing concerns can file a dispute by contacting DeKalb County Water Billing at 404-378-4475. Anyone experiencing difficulty paying their bills may request an Installment Payment Agreement online, by calling Water Billing or by mail. Installment plan agreements are available with a maximum term of 84 months and minimum payments of $25. Any customer whose water service has been disconnected or who is facing disconnection should call DeKalb County Water Billing.

It’s always a good idea to keep paying your average amount for water even if your bill is in dispute.

Tuesday night’s town hall is at 6 p.m. at the Atlanta Friends Meeting Hall in Decatur.