WSAV viewers want answers to surprise water bill increases

On Your Side

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Concerns about higher-than-normal water bills are prompting some WSAV viewers to reach out to News 3. Several emails in recent weeks tell the same story from customers of two different utility providers: sudden, unexpected jumps in water bills when no leaks have been detected in the homes of the customers facing the increases.

There are people living in the Highlands community who say higher water bills came out of the blue, with one resident saying it’s become an annual occurrence over the last three years.

Dee Russell says the usage graph on her bill shows the significant usage increases and there were never any leaks found in her home in Highlands.

In an email, Russell wrote:

I have been hit with high water bills on 9/1/17, 4/11/18, 6/8/18, and my latest bill on 6/10/19. When I received the first large bill on 9/1/17, I contacted the city who encouraged me to search for leaks, meter problems, etc. When I could not find any and a city rep came to my house to double-check, the excuse they provided was that due to the switch in billing software and staffing and weather issues, water meters had not been consistently read in the city for about a 4-6 month period and that the bills I received prior to the large bills were just estimates. When I questioned why the prior bills that were ‘estimates’ did not indicate that anywhere, there was no response.

It’s the same story we heard from Ashley Parrett. Her mother lives in a mobile home community off Quacco Road. Consolidated Utilities provides their water, but there are claims of surprise water bill increases from that utility company. Parrett says their bill jumped when it should have gone down because her siblings have been out of town at summer camp since June.

“So you would think with just one person living in the trailer, the water bill would have went down here, but it actually increased,” Parrett said. “Their explanation was an unnecessary surcharge in the summertime. And that’s all they would say.”

In Savannah, Alderman Van Johnson confirms receiving multiple complaints about unexpected increases in water bills. He says the first step to a remedy is in the Department of Revenue.

“I would suggest you do it and I would suggest you talk to somebody and have them explain what’s the reason for the spike in the bill. If the city is not being responsive, then contact your alderman,” Johnson said.

Russell says she tried Johnson’s advice, and once again, there’s the unexplained spike in her water bill:

We do not have the need for large amounts of water and the balance of our water bills bear this out as you can see from the chart. It makes no sense to me that 3 years in a row there has been an uptick of water usage that can’t be explained. My understanding is that the meters are read via a representative in an automobile that does so digitally or something like that. They never come physically and open my meter to read it. So I’m wondering if there is not some sort of error or tampering going on with this process. It is not at all transparent in how the bills are being “estimated” either.

Parrett offered a suggestion based on the idea there’s strength in numbers.

“We’re a community, guys, and we really need to stand together against this situation and the high rising of the water bills,” she said.

News 3 did reach out to Savannah city officials for more than a comment, expressing the hope to find the proper channels for residents with unexplained rate increases to follow. There was no response by the end of the business day on Wednesday.

News 3 will continue to follow this story.

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