MCBEE, S.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A South Carolina woman says a water corporation disconnected her water without notice.
Eighty-year-old Hazel Atkinson is an Alligator Rural Water and Sewer customer. She says she had never been late on a payment since becoming a customer in the ‘90s, but she missed one bill for $35 and her water was disconnected.
“I just failed to put my stamp on it and mail it,” Atkinson said. “I took it up there and they were closed, and I just said, ‘We’ll mail it,’ and forgot to do it.”
The check was already written but Atkinson says she didn’t feel comfortable putting her $35 payment in the drop box Friday afternoon. But by Tuesday morning her water was off.
Atkinson says an Alligator Water representative said she needed to pay a $65 restoration fee to restore services. Her daughter Laura Atkinson took over the conversation with the representative.
“So, I was just asking [the representative] how can you do this to an 80-year-old, and I’m pushing 50 and not in good health either,” Laura Atkinson explained. “So both of us need water everyone needs water.”
The South Carolina Water Bill of Rights outlines customers’ rights from a utility company, which Atkinson says Alligator failed to follow.
“You have the right to be given written notice from the utility at least 10 days before your water service can be disconnected for non-payment of your water bill,” Laura Atkinson said. “This did not happen. They didn’t leave a note on the door. They didn’t mail anything.”
Sydney Newell, lab director from Alligator Water, responded to Queen City News’ inquiry confirming the company did reconnect Atkinson’s water without a fee because of her payment history.
Newell said the company typically disconnects service for up to 25 customers every month for non-payment.
When asked about the Water Bill of Rights, Newell claimed Alligator Water is not subject to public utility laws as a private organization and directed further questions to their lawyer.
Alligator Water is governed by a seven-member water board that meets on the second Monday of every month. Laura Atkinson believes she needs to take her story to the state level for action.
“My next step is I’m immediately going to file a complaint with this Utilities Commission and see where that gets me,” she said.