Birmingham Water Works will begin shutting off water to defaulters and resume collecting outstanding bills on Wednesday.
The Water Works stopped their shutdown policy in January 2022 due to many billing issues facing the company.
The problems have left some customers with suspiciously high water bills.
According to reports, thousands of customers did not receive invoices for months. Later, they received much larger or multiple bills at once.
The bills were not based on accurate meter readings, but were estimates using prior months’ usage. Birmingham Water Works blamed the problems on insufficient meter readers and inadequate staff.
According to Water Works public relations manager Rick Jackson, estimating the utility’s water bills was a temporary measure taken due to staff shortages in the meter reading and billing departments.
However, a ex employee accused Water Works of lacking checks and balances and communication last year. She claimed to be one of three billing department employees fired on December 1, 2021, and said the utility company accused her of falsifying documents, which she denies.
Instead, he said he intentionally received unclear instructions from the managers whose orders he was following.
The former billing department employee said this went on for more than two years and she was not surprised when billing issues surfaced in early 2022.
In December, Jackson said the utility was fully staffed and 99% of Water Works customers should receive bills on time. He insisted that the utility company should resume the closing policy because there are many delinquent accounts.
Last year, Water Works Assistant General Manager of Finance and Administration Iris Fisher said in a press release that delinquencies increased from just under $7.3 million to more than $19 million since January.
At the same time, the utility company is increasing its expenses.
In late November, Birmingham Water Works voted to approve two new budgets for fiscal year 2023, totaling a combined total of $197,612,101. The new budgets also call for a 3.9% rate increase, which is less than half the rate increase that was proposed in September and identical to the rate increase that came with last year’s budget.
Jackson urged all customers to update their accounts as soon as possible.
“To our customers who are having payment issues, please help us help you,” Jackson said. “Help is available. We don’t want anyone to be left without water, period. Our concern is for low- and moderate-income customers to maintain their service. Help is available from our customer hotline, and there are many non-profit agencies as well where they also offer payment assistance. We want to hear from anyone having payment problems. Customers can call Birmingham Water Works Customer Service Department by phone (at) 205-244-4000 or go online at www.bwwb.org.
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