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Water service restored to homes in Petersburg during pandemic

Published: May. 12, 2020 at 11:20 PM EDT
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Water service has been restored to 14 homes without service during this pandemic after state and federal leaders pressured the city to take action.

At first, the city identified 46 homes that didn’t have water but that number dwindled after they say they discovered some of those homes had their water restored illegally. In other cases, no one was living in the identified properties.

“We found out that you didn’t have water service and we’re turning your water back on," Mayor Sam Parham told a resident as he showed up to her door.

Parham and Councilwoman Annette Smith-Lee were met people who have been living at home with no water service during this pandemic because they’re behind on utility bills.

“She said she just hadn’t gotten back to us to be able to re-establish her water service...She was very thankful. Appreciative," Parham said.

Just last week, the city council voted not to restore water service to customers citing $3.2 million that residents haven’t paid. On top of that, they say there’s an ongoing theft scheme of people rigging the system to get water for free.

The fact people had no water during a pandemic prompted state and federal leaders to call on Petersburg to act.

“We’re not inhumane. I live here,” Smith-Lee said.

Last week, she and a majority of council members voted not to offer a widespread re-connection.

“That’s because five years ago you’ll remember we were in a deficit of $9 million...If that happens again, where are we going to get the money from? We all have responsibilities and I don’t want anyone to be without water,” she added.

As service was restored at one home Tuesday, crews discovered malfunctioning pipes, which meant the water would have to be cut back off until the problem is fixed.

“I come home and found out the lady needs some water and figured I’d see what I can do to fix it for her,” Brandon Wells said. He lives nearby and decided to offer his services for free.

City officials brought cases of bottled water for the person living there.

“We’re concerned about them maintaining water after the pandemic because once the Governor releases his state of emergency, we don’t want them to fall back and not be able to maintain their water service. We look forward to working with any organizations that can come and help our residents here that are struggling with our bills. It’s a larger problem here in our predominately African-American city with economics and having the amount of money necessary to maintain their water service,” Parham said.

No water services were disconnected during the pandemic but water service is being restored to those who were behind on payments prior to the pandemic.

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