Water meter replacement program stalled

In May 2017, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond informed an audience at Rehoboth Baptist Church in Tucker that the county had approximately 102,000 water meters at risk of failure.

The potentially defective meters may have contributed to inaccurate water bills over the years, Thurmond said.

At the time, DeKalb County officials said the meter replacement program would begin at the end of 2017.

Through an open records request, The Champion asked to obtain documents regarding the water replacement program and its progress.

Two weeks after the request, county officials confirmed that there were “no responsive documents” related to the program—because the program had not started.

Almost a year after Thurmond’s meeting at Rehoboth Church the “large scale” replacement program was still not underway.

Reggie Wells, DeKalb County Watershed Management interim director, said county workers replace defective meters on a day-to-day basis as customers call in with issues.

Wells said the county is dedicated to fixing water billing and water meter issues that have plagued the county.  

“I would just like to ask if our customer base would give us a fair opportunity to show them we can correct these issues,” Wells said. “We’re not saying trust us now. Just let us earn their confidence and trust over time.”

The meter replacement program will replace approximately 55 percent of the county’s 184,000 residential water meters.

According to the county, approximately 62,000 meters are outside of their life span and 40,000 more have potential manufacturer defaults.

For years, DeKalb County residents have voiced concerns over “outrageously” high water bills. In a water billing update in 2017, Thurmond said some of the causes for high water bills were meters not being properly installed, defective Iperl meters and understaffed meter readers.

County officials said they are currently in the process of updating the county’s water meter and billing system.

Wells said the current system is outdated.

“We’re using a billing system that was installed 15 years ago.

At the time, it was one of the leading products, but technology has a certain life span,” Wells said. “We’ve outgrown our system and we need to get a new system.”

The county’s current system cannot alert workers if a meter is close to the end of its life cycle, which could allow workers to preemptively replace potentially defective meters.

“There’s no system trigger. You would just have to do what we currently do which is pay attention to install dates,” Wells said.

County officials said a new system should go live in March of 2019.

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