Long lines in S&WB lobby as water shut-offs loom; Mayor calls delinquent customers ‘bad actors’

NEW ORLEANS -- A group of protesters marched to Mayor LaToya Cantrell's office this afternoon, demanding that she put a stop to the water shut-offs that are supposed to start tomorrow.

Their plea went unanswered.

With the Mayor's support, the Sewerage and Water Board plans to resume shutting off water to delinquent customers, starting "the process" Wednesday (Aug. 1).

Water shut-offs were halted last fall, when the agency found multiple problems with its billing system.

Now, the agency says the billing problem is resolved and that at least 17,000 customers owe about $21 million.

Although the New Orleans City Council sent a letter to the Board last week requesting that it delay shutting off water for delinquent accounts, Mayor Cantrell, who is the President of the Sewerage and Water Board, wants collections to start again.

A statement from the Mayor said that she "supports bringing accountability to delinquent bad actors ... who have taken advantage of billing problems to avoid paying their fair share."

Her statement didn't sit well with protesters, who say that calling 17 thousand customers "bad actors" implies that anyone with an unpaid bill is breaking the law.

The lobby of the Sewerage and Water Board office was overflowing with people Tuesday afternoon, trying to clear up their billing issues before the Aug. 1 deadline.

Sewerage and Water Board lobby lined with people trying to clear up their past due bills