S&WB blames high turnover rate for double-billing almost 5,000 customers

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sewerage and water board building new orleans

NEW ORLEANS — The hits just keep on coming at the Sewerage and Water Board.

City Hall spokeswoman Erin Burns confirmed today that about 4,700 customers were double-billed recently, and it won’t be fixed until sometime this month.

The city cites a “shortage of meter-reading personnel and a high turnover rate in the department” as the reasons for the big mistake.

When there’s no meter-reader available, the S&WB relies on estimated meter readings to bill customers. Last month, the S&WB used estimates for billing, then had meter readers go out to the same customers’ houses and get a reading from the meter, which resulted in customers getting billed for both.

The S&WB will notify those customers this week. They will not be subject to late payment penalties or having their water turned off while the agency works to correct the problem.

“S&WB apologizes for this inconvenience and thanks our valued customers for their continued patience,” Burns said.

This isn’t the first time that the Sewerage and Water Board has come under fire in recent weeks over its operations. A heavy rain event on Aug. 5 caused widespread flooding in several New Orleans neighborhoods. The Sewerage and Water Board initially claimed that the drainage system (pumps and the turbines that power the pumps) was working at full capacity, but officials later retracted that statement when it was learned that 17 pumps were not functioning during the flood.

The failure prompted the termination of several S&WB employees, as well as the early retirement of its director, Cedric Grant.

A few days later, a fire at the only functioning turbine left the city vulnerable to flooding as tropical systems came to the area.

The city has brought in an emergency interim management team to oversee the department while repairs continue on the drainage pumps and turbines.

Burns also noted that the S&WB is assessing the possibility of automated metering for customers. A report and recommendation is expected to come before the Sewerage and Water Board at its January 2018 board meeting.

Customers with account questions can contact S&WB by calling 52-WATER.

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