Rolake “Rola” Tomori, a Nigerian immigrant by way of England who has rented her home since 2011, was very happy Friday morning when she got a phone call from the city.
“I got a call from the director of customer service (Ron Mull),” Tomori said. “He said he will work with me and will not shut down my water supply. They are promising me a lot, trying to make it look like they are being supportive. … He doesn’t want to talk about a bill right now.”
That was the same morning Marietta Daily Journal ran a story detailing her frustrations with Marietta about the bill. Tomori normally uses between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons of water a month, about $50 worth. But her most recent statement said she had used 89,000 gallons, more than 20 times the normal amount. The result was a $1,400 water bill.
After two plumbers came out and confirmed there were no leaks, with one specifically warning the meters used by Marietta Water and Power have been known to have issues, she said the city did not budge. Tomori feared all of her services handled by the city — water, electricity and trash pickup — would be cut off.
“They said you’re stuck,” said Tomori.
But the situation seemed to change Friday morning.
“It’s amazing,” Tomori said. “This man was so nice to me, and I was nice, too.”
Tomori added she now has the direct phone number for Mull, and he asked for her to call next week for an update on the meter test.
“We had already scheduled to have the meter tested,” Mull said. “I explained to her that we wouldn’t do anything until we got the results back and tested it again. We had already scheduled that; they just didn’t go and do it today because the article was in the paper.”
If the tests results show the meter is accurate, it will then be sent to the manufacturer, and they will test it to confirm. Any costs for the meter tests are also being paid by the city.
“I shared that with her today; she thought that was good,” Mull said. “I just told her nothing was going to happen prior to us getting those results.”
Tomori had begun the process of reaching out to Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and her local councilman. She was told Friday the response to her issue was at the request of the mayor’s assistant, but added she had reached out to that person several days before with no response.
Tomori is a psychologist and single parent, with a son at Marietta High School and a daughter at Yale University. Her water meter was installed in 2010. Officials with MPW said meters typically slow down over time rather than speed up and that they are usually replaced after 10 years only because of revenue loss.
Mull said previously the meter was first checked March 14 showing 89,000 gallons had been used. Noticing the high output, the city sent someone to check again and in the three hours between readings, the meter showed another 1,000 gallons ran through Tomori’s system.
“We billed accordingly,” Mull said Wednesday. “She got her bill for $1,400.”
The meter was checked a third time March 19, Mull said, and another 7,000 gallons had been used. The city later used a leak detector showing no water was being used at the time of the reading. Marietta would not offer a discount on the bill because no leak could be documented.
Something as simple as a leaky toilet could use up 89,000 gallons in a month if it’s running wide open, according to Mull. To give an idea how much water that is, Mull said 89,000 gallons could fill “a couple of pools.”
But Tomori maintained all along that a problem that large doesn’t go away on its own.
“Do you think an 89,000-gallon leak would just clear itself up?” she asked.
Liz Coyle, executive director of consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch, called the situation “extortion” on the part of the city. Luckily for Tomori, that seems to have changed.
“I’m going to have a better weekend now,” she said. “This thing has been stressing me out, and now today, it’s totally different.”