Water services will be disconnected Dec. 1 for D.C. Water customers who fail to pay their bills or register for a financial assistance program.
D.C. Water, a nonprofit water utility company servicing Washington, D.C., originally stopped disconnections and waived late fees in an effort to ensure residents could access their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, D.C. Water announced Nov. 2 that it would resume disconnections, as the current outstanding balances are hindering operations.
D.C. Water is resuming disconnections out of necessity, as customers’ unpaid bills, which now total $26.3 million, threaten future operations, according to Pamela Mooring, external communications manager at D.C. Water.
“We don’t want to disconnect anyone, but we need customers to pay their past due balances so that we can keep the water flowing,” Mooring wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Late fees and interest charges on outstanding balances resumed Sept. 1 in an effort to encourage customers to pay their bills or seek financial assistance. Still, the reinstatement of interest charges and late fees was not enough to incentivize customers to pay, according to Mooring.
D.C. Water needs customers to pay their outstanding balances so it can continue to provide water for District residents, David Gadis, CEO and general manager of D.C. Water, wrote in a Nov. 2 press release.
“We have a duty to continue delivering water and sewer services to the District. As a not-for-profit organization, we rely on revenue for operations and capital projects,” Gadis said in the press release. “With arrears this significant, it could jeopardize our ability to deliver these critical services.”
Unpaid bills have prevented D.C. Water from making infrastructure improvements and taking on additional projects, according to Mooring.
“We reduced expenditures — we delayed $170 million worth of capital projects and have over 100 vacancies that we need to fill for critical operations and to advance the infrastructure program,” Mooring wrote. “Currently, we are having to prioritize filling those vacancies because of the shortfall.”
D.C. Water has taken steps during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that financial circumstances do not bar anyone from having access to water. One such initiative, which launched Feb. 8 and continues to be an option, gives customers who live in multifamily buildings, such as apartment buildings or low-income condominium buildings, the opportunity to apply for financial assistance in paying their water bills.
Customers who enroll in one of the nine different federal and local programs that offer millions of dollars in financial assistance will not be disconnected from water services, according to Mooring.
“We have existing discounts for eligible customers that are ongoing and we have some emergency funding for those financially impacted by the pandemic,” Mooring wrote. “There is plenty of funding available.”
As the threat of disconnections looms, certain customers could be excused if they meet a given set of criteria, according to D.C. Water’s Nov. 2 press release.
“Some customers may be eligible for disconnection relief if they meet certain requirements such as owing less than $600 or entering a payment plan,” the press release reads. “Customers may also be eligible if certified by the Office of the Mayor of the District of Columbia, or they provide documents showing that they qualify for disconnection relief through one of these programs.”
When customers pay their bills, D.C. Water is able to continue providing a necessary service, according to Mooring.
“The bottom line is, in order to continue providing critical water and sewer services, we need customers to get current,” Mooring wrote.