(Photo by Flickr user Argonne National Laboratory, used under a Creative Commons license)
Water bills are back in Baltimore.
Three months after a ransomware attack against the City of Baltimore’s IT systems, the local government will resume issuing water bills, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said Wednesday.
“As a matter of fact, as we speak 10,000 bills are being printed, and they will be sent out tonight,” Baltimore Department of Public Works Director Rudolph Chow said at a news conference held Wednesday morning. “So this is to mark the beginning of resuming our water billing system. At the same time, our online bill payment system has been turned on, as well.”
The City of Baltimore's water billing system is now fully operational. Review the following FAQ responses for more information on your water bill. pic.twitter.com/RyFpEg54PP
— Baltimore City Hall (@BaltCityHall) August 7, 2019
While city officials had said employees regained access to email and other recovery measures brought many services back online, the water billing system remained shut off.
The bills will be higher than normal, and Chow said some “sticker shock” is expected.
For one, there will be charges for four months. Chow said water meters continue to record the actual amount of water used by a customer. But the ransomware attack prevented the bills themselves from being issued until now.
“The meter on a particular individual’s homes … continued to register actual consumption. It’s just that we didn’t have the ability to bring those reads into the system due to the ransomware attack,” Chow said. “We are now able to import those actual reads from our meters.”
And while the system was down, a water rate hike that was approved in January went into effect on July 1. The roughly 9% increase will be reflected through two lines on the bill: one for before July 1, and one for charges after July 1, Chow said.
The city is waiving late fees for water bills through November. It’s also offering assistance through a payment plan program and a grant program that was enacted along with the rate increase called Baltimore H2O.
Bills will be issued throughout the month, as the city can print 10,000 per day for customers in Baltimore city and county, Chow said. A note on the DPW’s online bill pay website notes that charges won’t be updated until the bill is mailed.
DPW also extended customer service hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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