Received an insane water bill from the city, recourse?

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10,741
Location
MA
The flip side could be that the meter was read incorrectly and now they corrected it to the right number. You would have to look up the number you had on the meter previously. But you probably don't have that and only have what the city provided.

Sounds like you also need to interrogate everyone in the house to see if anyone left the water on. I did have an outside faucet freeze on me once, but a neighbor let me know about it and I shut it off and the bill wasn't too bad, but I guess if it had gone on for weeks, could have been pretty steep.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
The flip side could be that the meter was read incorrectly and now they corrected it to the right number. You would have to look up the number you had on the meter previously. But you probably don't have that and only have what the city provided.

Sounds like you also need to interrogate everyone in the house to see if anyone left the water on. I did have an outside faucet freeze on me once, but a neighbor let me know about it and I shut it off and the bill wasn't too bad, but I guess if it had gone on for weeks, could have been pretty steep.
That's fair, but it seemed pretty consistent up until and since.

I've already asked everyone around here. I have a very good relationship with my room mates, and they have 1.5+ years of proven reliability. I totally understand a month with a slight bump, say to 12 or 13 CCF (double my average, btw, so being VERY generous in my understanding), however 73 CCF is ridiculous. I looked it up, that's enough water to fill a 30'x50' pool at 5' depth. That's 1/3 of my entire parcel being submerged in 5' of water. I just can't wrap my head around those numbers out of nowhere.
 
Messages
3,129
Location
Chicago Area
If you haven't talked to your neighbors yet, see if they have had any issues. I recall one of the southwest suburbs of Chicago being involved in a class-action lawsuit because they had shifty smart water meters that resulted in customers being overcharged.
 
Messages
86
Location
MN
Are you sure you didn't have a running toilet at one point? I've gotten them in the past and the bill can easily be over $500-$1000. That's why I change them out when they start to get oil. Much cheaper to replace a toilet than to pay a sky high water bill.

And if it's an input error on the meter, have you read the numbers on the meter to see if it matched up with your bill?
A running toilet? LOL
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
A running toilet? LOL
Actually, that's factual. The only reason I know this is because I literally looked it up as I was on the phone with them. The term "running toilet" can mean two different things: a toilet that leaks down and occasionally needs to refill, or a toilet with the flapper valve wide open. A wide open toilet can apparently use upwards of 4.5 GPM, so in theory that's a possibility. However, not being able to hear that run for that long is almost impossible.
 
Messages
4,927
Location
Lima, Ohio, USA
it's funny i saw this thread, just after I got the Following txt from my brother:
"I am 4 hrs away from Saving $60 on my water bill, with 10 gallons remaining"

His Subdivision is in the Township, but water and Sewer are provided by the Village. they have 2 rate scales, one for inside the Village, and one for outside the Village.
the outside scale is almost double the $$ of the inside scale.
The Minimum Billing is for 1700 gallons and under
0-1700 Gallons Water and Sewer
Inside the Village - $21.11 Water+$5 service fee+$8.90 Sewer+$5 service fee+$3 storm sewer+$20 Garbage(includes Curbside recycling)=$63.01 Minimum Bill
Outside the Village - $35.40+$5 Service Fee+$13.35 Sewer+$5 service fee=$58.75 Minimum Bill, and you have to hire your own Trash Hauler( no Recycling, even if you hire the same company that has the village contract )

if you go even 1 gallon over, the next tier goes all the way to 3000 Gallons water, and 5200 sewer (sewer based on your water reading)
1701-3000 Gallons Water, 1701-5200 Gallons Sewer
Inside the Village - $45.04 Water+$5 service fee+$26.80 Sewer+$5 service fee+$3 storm sewer+$20 Garbage=$104.84
Outside the Village - $75.48+$5 Service Fee+$40.20 Sewer+$5 service fee=$125.68

so if he uses 11 Gallons of Water before midnight, that 1 gallon will Cost him an extra $66.93

he has trouble staying under the 1700 gallon mark, and it's just him at the house, 1 guy, couple loads of laundry a week, only 1 working toilet, etc.

I would have offered to run him over a couple gallons of drinking water, (we're on a well/septic) but My Car is in the shop...

and the real crazy thing is, even with those water prices, our uncle who lives just down the block from him, will be out there watering is grass and flower beds all summer...

Full rate Chart PDF
 
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Messages
5,104
Location
Pittsburgh,PA U.S.A.
My next door neighbor had a water line she did not know about that went out of her house and ran underground and all the way across her back yard into her one car garage. It was all on the property when she bought it. That line developed a leak underground. I traced it down to the pipe in her cellar going into the wall that is against the underground of the back yard. There is a shutoff in the cellar and since she never used the water in the garage I just shut off the pipe for her. I do not know how much her bill was up because of that, but the water was running down the back alley before I shut off the pipe. Inside the garage was dry.
 
Messages
269
Location
North Dakota
No idea what to say on that one...the fact that things seem back to normal point to meter reading issue IMO.

For those inquiring about a pipe leak underground: us northerners have the meters inside the house for obvious reasons, so any leak past the meter should be pretty obvious as it has to be internal to the structure, unless lines are run back out for sprinkler systems, etc.
 
My BIL has worked for the water department in his town for 40 years so I've heard lots of stories about high bills and disputes. You say they have electronic reading that grabs the info as they drive by. His department got that several years ago. First have it re-read, there can always be a mistake like anything computer/electronic. Depending on how their equipment is set up it can read and save water usage by the day, hour, even minute. Ask how much data they collect, what resolution? They can see exactly when the usage started, how long it ran, and even guess what it was. I think BIL's system saves a flow reading every hour. Not sure but I know the data saved is decided by the water company.

BTW, People are claiming invasion of privacy, especially if they're running a pot farm with irrigation in the basement! Have you looked down there lately? ;)

For those not familiar, the water company has a receiver in the truck that pings the sending unit on the meters as it drives down the street. The sender turns on, sends the data and goes back to standby. The data is downloaded back at the office.

With 3 renters hopefully you have a fund for unplanned expenses. You can always try for a goodwill reduction of the bill.
 
Messages
5,104
Location
Pittsburgh,PA U.S.A.
Did the utility recently install a new meter. Sometimes they do that if the meter is too old or they upgrade. And if a new meter was installed there may have been an error in the change from old to new.

When I worked for the local electric supply company they once got a batch of meters with a few that had the wrong multiplier built into the mechanics that convert the rotation of the disk into the dial readings. It got by the meter department because when they check the new meters they use an optic reader that senses a black mark on the spinning disk, and does not check the actual progression of reading after the gear reduction causes the reading.

Those customers screamed when there bill was off by a multiple of what it should be.

When the utility is replacing hundreds of meters a week, and half a dozen bad ones get by and put into use, it can be hard to get things corrected.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most utilities have a state public utility commission ( PUC ). And few customers know that when ever a utility goes for approval of a rate increase the ( PUC ) has to approve it. And the PUC brings up any complaints that were filed during the years since the last increase, and the utility must explain how they resolved each of those complaints if they want the rate increase to go through.

Usually there are only a very few customers who file a PUC complaint against the utility. But those complaints get very special attention, because the utility wants to be able to show how well they treated the customer when the PUC reviews each of those complaints when they ask for a rate increase.

So if your utility has a PUC and you really have been done wrong, file a PUC complaint, and let the utility know you have done that.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
My BIL has worked for the water department in his town for 40 years so I've heard lots of stories about high bills and disputes. You say they have electronic reading that grabs the info as they drive by. His department got that several years ago. First have it re-read, there can always be a mistake like anything computer/electronic. Depending on how their equipment is set up it can read and save water usage by the day, hour, even minute. Ask how much data they collect, what resolution? They can see exactly when the usage started, how long it ran, and even guess what it was. I think BIL's system saves a flow reading every hour. Not sure but I know the data saved is decided by the water company.

BTW, People are claiming invasion of privacy, especially if they're running a pot farm with irrigation in the basement! Have you looked down there lately? ;)

For those not familiar, the water company has a receiver in the truck that pings the sending unit on the meters as it drives down the street. The sender turns on, sends the data and goes back to standby. The data is downloaded back at the office.

With 3 renters hopefully you have a fund for unplanned expenses. You can always try for a goodwill reduction of the bill.
Did the utility recently install a new meter. Sometimes they do that if the meter is too old or they upgrade. And if a new meter was installed there may have been an error in the change from old to new.

When I worked for the local electric supply company they once got a batch of meters with a few that had the wrong multiplier built into the mechanics that convert the rotation of the disk into the dial readings. It got by the meter department because when they check the new meters they use an optic reader that senses a black mark on the spinning disk, and does not check the actual progression of reading after the gear reduction causes the reading.

Those customers screamed when there bill was off by a multiple of what it should be.

When the utility is replacing hundreds of meters a week, and half a dozen bad ones get by and put into use, it can be hard to get things corrected.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most utilities have a state public utility commission ( PUC ). And few customers know that when ever a utility goes for approval of a rate increase the ( PUC ) has to approve it. And the PUC brings up any complaints that were filed during the years since the last increase, and the utility must explain how they resolved each of those complaints if they want the rate increase to go through.

Usually there are only a very few customers who file a PUC complaint against the utility. But those complaints get very special attention, because the utility wants to be able to show how well they treated the customer when the PUC reviews each of those complaints when they ask for a rate increase.

So if your utility has a PUC and you really have been done wrong, file a PUC complaint, and let the utility know you have done that.
As I said in the OP, I have a meter that only measures once a month. It was evidently installed in 1993, I just learned that today. I was on the phone with some tech guy and he was able to see back as far as I was, but only on a month-to-month basis. No finer resolution than that. He said they've slowly been replacing these meters with the new "smart" meters that measure down to the hour, minute, second etc.
 
Messages
514
Location
KY, USA
Maybe you better check the neighbor's pool to see if it's full of water. I'm wondering if they changed the meter with another used one and didn't record the difference in readings of your old one and the one they replaced it with. A few years ago my mom got an expensive gas bill one month. Come to find out the meter reader wasn't actually checking the meters but was just writing down an estimated number he made up, I guess based on what the meter reading was the month before. After paying the higher bill, the next month she didn't owe anything on her next bill and as I remember got a partial credit on the next one too.
 
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Messages
528
Location
Virginia, USA
Shut off all water fixtures and appliances in the house and go down to where your line enters the house and put your ear onto the line. You should hear silence. When my incoming line burst underground, I could still hear water flowing, despite it being about 40’ away from my foundation block. Galvanized pipes do eventually burst, especially if your water is even slightly acidic.
 
Messages
6,448
Location
Scruffy City
I apologize if i missed it, but can you actually access the meter? Does it have numbers? Check it.

When this happened to us we went and checked the meter and the reading was significantly less than what was indicated on the bill.... much hem hawing ensued at the water company but they fixed it.
 

14Accent

Thread starter
Messages
1,642
Location
MN
I apologize if i missed it, but can you actually access the meter? Does it have numbers? Check it.

When this happened to us we went and checked the meter and the reading was significantly less than what was indicated on the bill.... much hem hawing ensued at the water company but they fixed it.
Yes, I can. And yes, with all water off in the house the meter is at full stop. No, the meter is from 1993 according to the city.
 
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