Residents blast city leadership over Atlanta water crisis: 'This was an act of negligence'

Atlanta residents say they are angry, some having been without water service since Friday after a series of water main breaks in downtown and Midtown that have impacted not only residents, but local businesses as well.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens addressed city council on Monday afternoon, where he stated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be in the city on Tuesday to help fix the water crisis.
"We are currently coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We have sought their assistance because they have the most experience in handling a crisis like this. They will help us develop a plan to assess and evaluate our aging infrastructure," Dickens stated.

The water mains broke on Friday. As of Monday night, many customers were still without service or under a boil water advisory in large parts of northwest Atlanta, including downtown and Midtown.


Angry residents blasted city leaders at Monday's meeting, accusing the city of neglecting problems that led to the major breaks. 

"This was not a terrorist attack, this was not a natural disaster. This wasn't a hurricane, this wasn't a tornado, this was not an act of god," said Devon Barrinton Ward, a resident impacted by the crisis. "This was an act of negligence. How many times is the City of Atlanta going to be caught with its pants down?"

The water crisis has community members accusing city leaders of neglecting a long-brewing problem and failing to keep the public in the loop about what they are doing to fix the problem.

"The city’s water access is knocked out of operation, with abysmal communication or transparency," one resident told council members.

Atlanta member of council Michael Julian Bond says he doesn't believe leadership has been negligent. He says city leaders have tried to stay on top of the infrastructure. 

"We’ve literally spent billions of dollars on improving the water quality and the water system’s facilities," Bond said.

According to city leaders, the water system is more than 80 years old.

When asked what council is doing to ensure a crisis of this proportion does not occur again, Bond said the utility committee will hold a work session, "to make sure that we’re developing a policy going forward that allows for the development and the maintenance."

Bond says the public will have the ability to speak at the hearing.

The mayor announced the city will establish a financial relief program for businesses that have lost money during the water crisis.

More than 15 departments and divisions across the city have been working around the clock since the weekend to fix the problem.