Wilkes County residents lost access to water after well owner shuts off due to drought reported on the news


WILKES COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – People living in about a dozen homes in Wilkes County told NewsChannel 6 all of a sudden their water no longer worked. The Heard Chapel Church Road area is not connected to the city’s running water because it’s too far. So they depend on well water.

Karen Bowen is one of the people who depend on that well.

“I’ve taken my kids two miles down the road for them to take baths on a school night. I’ve bought bottled water,” she told us after having her water turned off by the owner.

The people in this small Wilkes County community are suffering.  That’s because they don’t have running water.  Yes, it’s 2016, but the man who owns this well has the power.

Long time resident Peggy Zellars noticed the water went out after church.

“I went to wash my dishes. It was about 3:30 and I said my water is off,” said Zellers, who has been on the block for 15 years.

There stories are all the same.  Sometime on Sunday there was no water.

The same is true for Alice Turner.

“I got a five year old granddaughter that goes to school so we had to go buy water for her to go take a bath,” she said while her daughter, Shalonda Norman, showed us gallons and cases of water they had purchased for their home.

These people are furious on Heard Chapel Church Road at the man who owns their only source of running water in the country, a well.  It’s $20 a month, but there are rules.

“Yeah, by washing a car,” said Dwayne Beverly, another resident.

He was washing a car and because of that, he said the water was shut off.

Law enforcement told them get a lawyer and now they are signing a petition to do just that.

“He can’t lock him up or anything like that,” said Maxine Porter.

“My landlord was telling us it’s his well and there’s really not much we can do about it because it belong to him.  We pay him, but we don’t have no water,” Turner said.

We caught the well owner, who neighbors call Cleve, on camera after we sent word for him to find out if he shut the water off and why.

I asked, “Did you cut their water off?”

“That water was low,” replied the owner, Cleveland Cullars.

Cleve told me there was a drought he heard about on Channel 6.

“You ain’t seen there was a drought in Lincolnton, Washington and McCormick?”

I repeated, “You’re saying there was a drought in Lincolnton, Washington?”

He then said he was not responsible for the residents not having water.

“Never turned no water off because it cut its own self off,” he said. “Once the well go down, it’s up to the good Lord.”

I asked, “These people are telling us that you shut the water off.  What do you say to that?”

He stated, “You got to shut the water off.  You know what it cost to put a motor in that well laying in there?  About $3500 if it burn up.”

We later confirmed there was a reported drought.

“Since we’ve been running below average rainfall totals, maybe some people’s wells are starting to dry up.  That’s definitely a symptom of the drought we’ve got going on,” Meteorologist Kevin Niewood said.

And that drought just might impact the well.  Young & Sons Well Drilling Partner Bobby Young said it could.

“If it’s a drilled well and it drops the volume in the well and say your pump pumps down to where the water just isn’t catching up with the pump, it can eventually burn the motor up,” he said.

But the residents told me Cleve gives them a lot of other problems too and they just want water.

Turner added, “If you have a problem with everybody in this neighborhood sell the well and you move.”

These folks tell me they plan on taking that petition to the courthouse and they will hire a lawyer. In terms of the well, Mr. Cleve said he’s going to keep watching the news to see if there is a drought. If it is, because of the motor he is going to have to shut the water off. We will keep in touch to see if that happens.

As of now the people have water.  It has been turned back on by the owner.Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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