The government will not be able to pay Washington, D.C. a water bill of $5 million for services offered to federal buildings due to the ongoing government shutdown.
In D.C., the largest water consumer is the federal government with its 195,000 employees who work in many federal buildings. The federal government has paid only $10.5 million so far out of the total amount it owes, which is approximately $16.5 million.
“We anticipate the outstanding balance for the second quarter will be paid in full once the shutdown ends,” Vincent Morris, the spokesman for utility, told the ABC News.
In a letter from the U.S. Treasury Department, which was read at a water utility board meeting last week, members were informed that the government would not be able to immediately pay the $5 million it owes.
The Treasury Department in a statement to ABC News said, “Due to the partial government shutdown, some of the agencies consuming these services had a lapse in appropriation so no authority exists to collect the funding to pay their bill.”
At the water utility board meeting, questions were raised and there was also talk about shutting off services or charging late fee if the bill is not cleared.
“It brings up an interesting question. Is there a time from non-payment when we cut someone’s water off?” said Tommy Wells, board chairman and director of the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment.
D.C. laws allow shutting down water supply to any building if payment is not made in 30 days. Authorities can also take over the building after 60 days, until the bills are cleared.
Matthew Brown, the chief financial officer at the water utility, said customers are typically not charged late fees, and the same applies to the federal government. He also added that delayed payments won’t affect the utility finances immediately.
“It would probably be, just off the top of my head, approximately a year before it begins to be a real problem,” said Brown.
Morris told ABC News that they are unlikely to shut water service immediately. “We obviously go to great length not to shut off water for anybody in any circumstance,” said Morris.