In The News › S&WB customers question wide disparities in monthly bills

Nov 22, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Infrastructure, Orleans Parish

S&WB customers question wide disparities in monthly bills

Monday, November 22, 2010
By Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
WWLTV

NEW ORLEANS — This past weekend’s self-described “catastrophic failure” at New Orleans main water plant is the latest sign of a heavily damaged sewerage and water system in the city.

As underground pipes continue leaking, some customers believe the damaged infrastructure could be impacting the cost of their services.

Jameel Qutob, the owner of Maple Street Café, a restaurant in the Uptown area, believes from month to month his water usage doesn’t change much.

However, Qutob says the amount the Sewerage and Water Board charges, fluctuates heavily.

“Before Katrina, we used to get like $290, $280, $310, around that range, but after Katrina, it got crazy,” he said.

Qutob showed us some recent bills that showed a wide disparity in charges. A few were in the low hundreds, followed by others that climbed higher, including a charge of more than $1,900.
The problems have been going on for a while now.

Qutob said, as the charges mounted, he faced a more than $10,000 bill at one point in 2008.

He said he has repeatedly asked the Sewerage & Water Board for explanations, but gets no firm answers.

“They’re telling me, get plumber reports. I got a bunch of ‘em. Some of them they have and some of them I have. We go to a hearing — at the hearing they said, OK, we’re gonna do an investigation,” Qutob said. “Everything at the water board is an investigation and nothing (is) done.”

Olivier’s, a restaurant in the French Quarter, has the same problem. Owner Armand Olivier showed us a wide range of one-month charges, including bills of $392, a little more than $1,000, and one of nearly $2,600.

The property manager of Magnolia Gardens an apartment complex in New Orleans East has been haggling with the Sewerage & Water Board over an unpaid $21,000 bill.

The manager said, for several months, the complex’s bill skyrocketed from under $2,000 a month to anywhere between $5,000 and $8,000 a month.

Sewerage & Water Board officials didn’t return our calls or e-mail Monday, but the billing disparities raise more questions about the troubled system in the city.

The power outage and boil-water advisory captured headlines over the weekend, and city leaders have long talked about the massive leaks in the underground system.

“It can operate at a lesser level if all of the leaks were plugged and the system was whole,” said Cedric Grant, New Orleans deputy mayor of Infrastructure. Monday, an example – as we saw water gushing from the ground on Carrollton near Bienville.

After extensively studying the city’s infrastructure needs, the Bureau of Governmental Research identified sewerage and water systems as the most critical.

“We’re under a consent decree for our sewage system. Our water system is leaking more than 70 percent of the water, which is astronomical rate, compared to what it should be,” said Janet Howard, BGR’s chief executive officer.

Nov 22, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Infrastructure, Orleans Parish

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