Louisiana voters to consider constitutional amendment on authority to waive water charges

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — Michael Maxie strolled into the offices of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, portfolio in hand. It contained something he couldn’t ignore.

“I just got a $3,000 water bill,” Maxie said.

The bill showed more than $3,200 due. His previous bill was less than $100.

“My last water bill was $94,” Maxie said.

So he went to the agency to contest the bill.

“They say I have a leak, but I don’t have any leaks in my house, now you can even come with this camera and see that, you know, because all my pipes are through the ceiling, so if I had a leak, the whole house would be full of water,” Maxie said.

Oliver Thomas is a New Orleans City Councilman who often hears about suspicious bills.

“We all know these challenges. I never forget, one of my neighbors, right, had a dispute with the sewerage and water board over a bill that was pinned to his property that immediately started with a pipe in the public, you know, the leak wasn’t even on his Property, the leak was on municipal property, the leak had something to do with the system,” Thomas said.

Water bill disputes are common and not limited to New Orleans.

So, a proposed constitutional amendment to the Louisiana constitution is up for a vote on November 8th.

She asks voters, “Do you support a change that would allow local governments to waive water charges that are the result of damage to the water system not caused by the customer?”

Thomas reacted to the referendum.

“Anything we can do to take some of the burden and stress away from tariff payers and customers I think is a good thing,” he said.

Louisiana law generally prohibits state and local government agencies from lending, pledging, or donating money, loans, property, or anything of value to any person or entity. A ban that includes agencies and bodies that oversee public water systems.

The Public Affairs Research Council, a non-profit organization, provides explanations of constitutional amendments on its website. And it also presented arguments for and against the proposed constitutional changes.

The argument for Amendment 4: Water system administrators should be flexible enough to help customers when bills have been unreasonably increased by damage beyond a customer’s control, such as B. Infrastructure problems caused during an ice storm, flood or other disaster. Many other states offer their water suppliers this flexibility. The waivers are permissible, not required.

The argument against Amendment 4: The widespread waiver of customer fees undermines the sustainability of the system and drains much-needed cash from systems already struggling with outdated infrastructure. The change in the ban makes system administrators more vulnerable to outside political pressure. Water system administrators can offer payment plans to deal with high fees.

It is often the property owner’s responsibility to demonstrate that the problem with the water system infrastructure does not reside on their property.

“I saw one the other day that was $20,000 right? And it’s up to them to hire a master plumber or do an inspection of their system if the leak is in front of their property, which is crazy right?”

The S&WB in New Orleans states that it has existing policies regarding the waiver of water charges that are not caused by the customer and in the event of a leak on the property.

The agency has provided the following information about its policies.

  • A leak on your property – A customer is responsible for having the leak repaired. You must notify us in writing with proof of repair. Evidence consists of a statement of work from a licensed plumber or a letter signed by you detailing the extent of repairs made and copies of receipts for supplies.
  • After SWBNO receives a meter reading indicating that a customer’s water usage has returned to normal, we will reimburse 50% of the excess sewage charges and 50% of the excess water charges for above-ground leaks, such as. B. leaky fittings, adapt. We will match 100% of excess sewage charges and 50% of excess water charges for underground pipe leaks. Normal consumption is the average of the last two actual meter readings before the leak occurred. Excessive sewage and water consumption is considered to be water and sewage consumption in excess of your normal consumption.
  • A leak that was SWNBO’s responsibility – We will deduct 100% of the excess sewage charges and 100% of the excess sewage charges from your bill.
  • An inexplicably high bill – If there is no clear cause for the high bill and water usage returns to normal over the following month, SWBNO may adjust your water usage once a year to match your account’s last actual meter reading, which is similar to normal water consumption of your account. If your water usage continues to be high on subsequent bills, you will be notified to check your property for leaks. In this case, no adjustment is made.

It also states that customers who are dissatisfied with bill adjustments or the outcome of bill investigations can request a hearing before an Administrative Hearing Officer.

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