UPDATE: 4:30 p.m., Friday Oct. 6 — WRBL reached out to ClearWater Solutions multiple times for comment. The Marion County Water Department currently has a contract with ClearWater Solutions. Here is their official statement:

ClearWater Solutions is aware of the current billing issue affecting Marion County utility customers and is working with county administration officials to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this billing issue may have created for customers. Any customers who have difficulty paying their bill are encouraged to contact the county utility office to learn about available payment arrangements.

Catherine Edwards, ClearWater Solutions CEO

MARION COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) — Marion County residents are facing major water concerns after experiencing three water main leaks recently. The county and residents are saying this is nothing new. Thousands of residents are frustrated after receiving high water bills in the mail.

Marion County resident William Simon says his water bill jumped from $36-to $254. Simon says the county water department told him the high bill is due to technicians estimating his water meter for about six to seven months and that the bill is to make up for the difference.

I’m on a fixed income and there’s a lot of other retirees out here that are just… I’ve got more than social security coming in. But some of these folks, that’s all they got, is social security. And a $300 or $250 bill… that’s like a fourth of their monthly income. They’re going to have to decide, ‘well, do I eat this month or do I pay a water bill and go nasty and not be able to flush my toilets or take a bath?’

William Simon, Marion County resident

Many residents saw hundreds of dollars added to their bills, but say their monthly consumption hasn’t changed.

Paying a huge bill at the end… I understand you used that water. You did. But it may have taken you six to eight months to use that much water. So to bill somebody for six months of usage, at one time, it’s just not right. I’ve had seniors call me over and over and just cry on the phone and tell me they can’t pay it. Their water is going to get turned off.

Nikole Aide, Former Clearwater Solutions Office Manager

Residents are claiming the Marion County Water Department told them they are being charged for around 6 months of usage in this latest bill and that their water meters could have been estimated. Marion County Manager Connie Harris says – that’s not the case.

None of the bills were estimated?

Cristina Feliciano, WRBL News 3 Reporter

Not one.

Connie H. Harris, Marion County Manager

Are those the actual numbers regarding the water usage?

Cristina Feliciano, WRBL News 3 Reporter

Yes, ma’am. 100 percent. Our citizens are being billed for two cycles. August and September in this one bill. I will say that Clearwater did eventually send some crews, a couple of gentlemen to help us out. A couple of techs. But it’s a large rural area and they are very unfamiliar with it. So, again, it took longer for them to complete the process and for them to actually complete the billing and for us to be able to send the bills out.

Connie H. Harris, Marion County Manager

Harris says the water department’s infrastructure is outdated, causing air to get into the lines and leaving residents with cloudy water. As for the high water bills, she says the county commissioners will do whatever they can to help.

We have put into place small agreements for us to set up payment arrangements for anyone, because a lot of people I know are on fixed incomes and budget certain amounts of money. So we’ve set up things to do whatever we need to do to help our citizens get through this.”

Connie H. Harris, Marion County Manager

Harris says the county received a grant for $1 million through Governor Brian Kemp’s office for the water infrastructure. The county recently conducted a hydraulic water study to determine where to start fixing the water lines. Those recommendations were addressed in a meeting last week. She says the grant is a step in the right direction, but believes it’s going to take several million dollars to fix all of the problems.