DeKalb County CEO calls for water and sewer rate increase. Thurmond warns of 'catastrophic failure'

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond Addresses County Commission on June 4, 2024. (Rahul Bali/WABE)

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond told county commissioners Tuesday that he will propose a water and sewer rate increase to upgrade and repair an aging system.

With the City of Atlanta in the spotlight because of its recent major water outages, Thurmond reminded the Commission of the more than $500 million already spent on the system over the past seven years.

“We are not beginning a journey. What we are asking this governing authority to do, and what we will ask our ratepayers to do, is to help us with the resources needed to continue this process. This is not a reaction to anything. This is us continuing to be proactive.”

While Thurmond says the proposed increase is not a reaction to what happened in Atlanta, he did connect the two.

“We must now be courageous enough not to wait until we are on the loop on the 6 and 11 and 8 a.m. on all our wonderful TV stations,” he added.

The CEO says the number one priority should be the county’s only water treatment plant.

“We have a three-to-five year window to make investments in the Scott Candler Water Treatment Plant or else we risk a catastrophic failure. If this plant stops pumping fresh water, there are no other options.”

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Thurmond called a failure at the Candler Water Treatment Plant “our worst nightmare”.

Potential rate increases and other related details are expected to be rolled out at a June 20 meeting of the DeKalb County Commission’s Committee of the Whole.

He says the county will look at ways to make the financial burden easier on low-income and senior residents.

Thurmond says water main replacement projects are in every part of the county, including incorporated and unincorporated areas. The projects could cost $4.4 billion over a 25-year period, but his priority are projects over the next one to five years.

For example, he expects the work at the Scott Candler Water Treatment Plant to cost about $250 million.

Thurmond, who is leaving office at the end of the year because of term limits, did add “I don’t want to burden the next CEO by having to make a request for a rate increase early on in their administration. This is on Mike. This needs to be done to protect the quality of life in Dekalb.”