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Despite meeting water quality standards, DeKalb County water earns low customer satisfaction rating

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Despite meeting water quality standards, DeKalb County water earns low customer satisfaction rating


A dripping faucet. Photo by Danny Steaven. Source: Wikimedia commons

This story has been updated. 

By Ellie Ritter, contributor 

DeKalb County has exceeded all of the quality standards for its drinking water, but that doesn’t mean its consumers are all happy.

Last week, the DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management (DWM) released this year’s Drinking Water Quality Report, also called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). Based on the report’s findings, DWM “continues to surpass all federal and state drinking water quality standards, providing DeKalb County customers with high-quality drinking water,” according to a press release from the county.

Serving more than 700,000 customers, the DWM treats and distributes drinking water and collects and treats wastewater throughout the county. The annual CCR presents information and data gathered from water quality testing as a part of the 1996 federal Safe Drinking Act.

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By law, tap water must meet various water quality standards to ensure that the water is safe to drink. DeKalb County collects and tests over 250 samples per month from locations throughout the distribution system, according to the report. Additionally, DeKalb County also conducts 45 daily production control tests daily, the report said.

The CCR showed that no water sites were in violation of any chemical regulations, like lead or copper. It also concluded that DeKalb County has “consistently produced superior quality drinking water.”

Still, DeKalb County’s water service has low customer satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2017 Water Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. The study, which measures satisfaction among residential customers of 87 water utilities in the Midwest, Northeast, South and West regions, found that DeKalb County had the lowest satisfaction rate in the South region.

The study measured overall satisfaction by examining 33 attributes within six factors (listed in order of importance): delivery; price; conservation; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.

Satisfaction was calculated on a 1,000-point scale. DeKalb scored a 639 – the lowest out of the 32 water utilities in the South region.

This dissatisfaction doesn’t necessarily equate to poor water quality, though. DeKalb County has reached the standards for safe water for several years.

“The Drinking Water Quality Reports from 2012 to 2017 show that DeKalb County consistently meets or exceeds all applicable Safe Drink Water standards, providing safe and reliable potable water to its customers,” DeKalb County spokesperson Andrew Cauthen said.

Instead, dissatisfaction may be a result of billing issues, which was one of the factors examined in the J.D. Power study. DeKalb County is facing a water billing “crisis,” overcharging customers and not sending bills for months. It’s possible that this crisis led to much of the dissatisfaction reflected in the J.D. Power study, but the county has plans to fix it.

“Water billing concerns are our top priority, and we hope fixing those issues will improve customer satisfaction,” Cauthen said.

The DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond has plans to fix it, Cauthen said. In terms of water quality, there’s no reason to worry.

“We already are doing all the work we can to ensure our water is of the highest quality,” Cauthen said, “and it consistently shows.”

Information on federal water regulations is available on the EPA’s drinking water website, or from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

The DeKalb County CCR is being distributed through county water bills and is available on DWM’s website under the “Water” tab. To access the JD Power & Associates report, click here.

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