Petersburg leaders address allegations of cutting off water to residents

Posted at 1:32 PM, May 13, 2020

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Petersburg city leaders held a press conference Wednesday morning to address allegations of water being cut off to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham said the biggest take away from the conference was that the allegations are false.

Parham said no water has been cut to residence since January 31, 2020.

On Sunday, the Virginia State Health Commissioner sent a letter to Petersburg officials ordering water service be restored to all occupied homes without it.

Petersburg leaders said in recent weeks, the city has gone to resident’s homes whose accounts were suspended back in January due to delinquent payments.

In total, more than 700 accounts were suspended at that time.

However, the city said they've recently reconnected water for more than 300 of those residents with a payment plan.

Officials said other accounts were found to be at vacant homes. And in multiple scenarios, city leaders said some people reporting having no water, already had their water reconnected, although it wasn’t done by the city.

As of Wednesday morning, City Manager Aretha Ferrell-Benavides said five residents remained, who were currently without water. Although, she said three of those residents were expected to have their water reconnected by the end of the day.

Ferrell-Benavides added that efforts to address the issue had been ongoing.

"I personally have been going door to door," said Ferrell-Benavides. "And so the problem with the order that was issued -- we were in the midst of addressing this issue. And unfortunately it took the focus away from our efforts, from an internal standpoint of addressing the issues of identifying any individuals without water."

Mayor Parham said while the city is doing what they can, they do not have the resources to give free water away.

"We have a crumbling infrastructure, and I still stand by my terms that everyone has to do something," said Mayor Parham.

Ferrell-Benavides said more than 3,000 residents owe more than $3 million to the city for utilities.



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