By John Schaffner
Atlanta homeowner Lisa Webb is downright mad about faulty water meters and skyrocketing water bills. She is determined to make the city’s Department of Watershed Management pay for her inconveniences, and she wants her money back.
Her attorney, Matthew Klase, said she overpaid on her water bills by thousands of dollars just to keep the water flowing. But the city still shut off the water.
Her solution? Go to court and possibly make the Watershed Management Department explain itself and its problems before a jury — perhaps of her peers who have experienced some of the same problems.
She hopes other homeowners are as angry as she is and will join the lawsuit.
“We hope this lawsuit will convince them they really have to rectify the problem. … Stop the problem,” Klase said. “We tried to work within the system for several months. Phone calls got nowhere. She filed an appeal that got nowhere. We sent a letter to the city explaining the problem; that got nowhere.”
The lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, says overpayments citywide could top $1 million. Estimates range from 615 to 3,500 new electronic meters that have been found to be defective, causing bills to double and triple.
For Webb, a faulty meter may have been the cause of a monthly water bill of $1,500 — five times normal.
Watershed Management personnel told her she had to pay the full amount to avoid having the water shut off. Webb has four children and had no choice but to pay the bill.
Eventually, the water department agreed to let her pay about half. She paid half. Two days later, her water was turned off, according to the suit.
The water has been turned back, but the high bills continue.
If the case goes to trial, it could cost the Atlanta government thousands of dollars to defend itself. If it reaches class-action status, with more than 20 plaintiffs, the cost could be much, much more.