By: Sharon Aron Baron
Imagine paying the same amount for your water bill every single month, every single year, but one day you get a bill that’s so unreasonably high that you’re certain that it must be a mistake. This is what happened to one resident last month when she received her water bill from the City of Coral Springs.
Connie Deutsch, who has lived in the same four bedroom home in the Forest Hills area for over 18 years, was opening her mail that her son brought over for her to read. Since she wasn’t wearing her eyeglasses at the time, she mistakenly believed her normally $41.49 water bill had gone up only seven dollars and read “$48.00.”
She put her glasses on and looked closer. The bill said $818.34.
“Oh no, this can’t be,” said Deutsch, “I almost had a heart attack when I saw that.”
She called the City of Coral Springs water billing office and they told her that she had used 75,000 gallon in only 27 days.
Deutsch said this would have been impossible for her to use up in only 27 days, when her bills typically say she uses less than 2,000 gallons each month.
The city sent two workers over to her home who inspected everything inside including the toilets, faucets, showers, washing machine, refrigerator and dishwasher, and found no leaks. They also inspected outside of the property and noticed that the ground, which would have still been wet with 75,000 gallons of water on it, was completely dry. Their conclusion: there were no leaks.
The water department even suggested to Deutsch that someone could have stolen her water.
“I tried to explain that if they had stolen my water, I would have heard them, because the hose is right outside my window. They said that I wouldn’t have heard it because the truck could have been parked on another block, hooked up to my hose. This was so unreasonable that I couldn’t believe they were saying it. First of all, if they hooked up only one hose, that hose, turned on to full capacity, would use 300 gallons an hour and it would have to run 24/7 for ten consecutive days to pull 75 thousand gallons of water out of my house. And in ten consecutive days, hooked up to a hose coming from my house, didn’t they think that a neighbor would have noticed it?”
The water department also told Deutsch that she ask her lawn service company if the ground was wet last month, but they came out and inspected it, and determined that the ground near the hose was dry.
“I tried to tell them that if it was a leak, leaks don’t fix themselves and the meter would still be spinning, which it isn’t, and the meter tested out fine.”
Deutsch has a swimming pool, but it has no automatic refill, so even if there were a leak coming from the pool, it could not have used 75,000 gallons over a 27 day period. The only time her pool needed water was last December when her pool company said they raised the pool line one inch.
“I also tried to make them see reason that if there was a leak, my house would have been completely submerged, and the lawn would have floated away because it would have taken six to seven swimming pools filled with water to reach that amount.”
Deutsch said that the water systems are over 30 years old, which is why the city is replacing the pipes and meters in the area. The day I she received the bill, her son went out and spoke to the workers who were laying pipes outside her front lawn. They told him they didn’t notice anything unusual.
Her water meter was replaced in late February, after the billing cycle ended for the $818.34 bill.
Deutsch wrote to the Mayor who turned it over to the water department. They discussed the situation with Assistant City Manager Susan Grant who offered her a credit of 50,000 gallons or $368.50.
This wasn’t acceptable to Deutsch, or to her daughter Susan Goldsmith, who was now involved with helping her mother with the bill. She believed the issue had to be a meter problem because her bill went back down to its regular amount after it was replaced.
Assistant City Manager Susan Grant wrote back:
We empathize with your situation and we will be changing our practice going forward to allow an account a one-time “amnesty” for up to 50 thousand gallons in these types of situations. In order to be eligible, we will need to receive documentation that a plumber has inspected the property and determined that there are no leaks.
As a result, if you can provide the documentation described above from a plumber, we will be able to provide an additional credit to your account (in addition to the sewer credit already given) of $368.50.
Goldsmith believed it wasn’t fair that the city was asking her mother to pay more money for a plumber’s report when she already three come out and even had documentation. She wrote back. “If you wish to check, there are no leaks. Please send out your own workers, you sent two of them out who checked the inside and outside of the property from top to toe and they couldn’t find any leaks. Please don’t ask my mother to fork out any more money for something that is quite patently not her responsibility.”
Coral Springs Talk has left a message with the City Manager’s office regarding this case and no one has returned our call.
Documentation from service companies inspecting for leaks: