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Customers Owe Sewerage and Water Board $134 Million In Unpaid Bills

Travis Lux
The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is owed an estimated $134 million in unpaid customer bills. The news comes as Mayor LaToya Cantrell tries to convince state officials to redirect tourism money to the utility.

After a couple years of billing issues, the Sewerage and Water Board (SWB) said last fall that citizens owed the utility about $23 million dollars. Now, it turns out that number is even higher.

At a city council committee meeting on Tuesday, council member Joe Giarrusso revealed that the number is currently closer to $130 million.

Over the last couple years some customers complained of receiving inflated bills from the Sewerage and Water Board, while others said they received no bills at all. SWB Executive Director Ghassan Korban says the utility is addressing those issues, with actions like hiring more people to read meters.

Gassan also says he isn’t completely confident in the $134 million figure. That estimate could include billing errors, he said, and could actually be lower.

The news comes as New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell continues negotiating with state officials to send tourism money to the SWB to help it regain financial stability after making tens of millions of dollars in repairs after flooding in the summer of 2017.

City Council President Jason Williams worries state officials might not want to send the money if the SWB isn’t collecting all it can right now.

“Before people are going to be willing to invest in our system,” says Williams, “They’re going to [want to] know that we have worked out the biggest problems in our system. And this billing issue is as big as pumps and turbines.”

Korban says it could take until June just to determine the accuracy of the $134 million estimate.

Support for the Coastal Desk comes from the Walton Family Foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation, the Foundation for Louisiana, and local listeners.


As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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