Columbia water bill says customer used 44,000 gallons of water

FOREST ACRES, SC (WIS) - A Forest Acres man says he was shocked when he got his water bill for last month because the City of Columbia charged him for using more 44,000 gallons of water.

Jack Suber says he's bought his water from the City of Columbia since 1991 when he bought his first house. He's been happy with the service since his bill was averaging around $20.

The rate went up in May, and Suber says it's wasn't that big of a deal, but in June, the city charged him $224.72. Most customers would have seen a $5-$10 increase.

"When you look at the indications, it says I used 5,900 cubic feet of water in June, which is the equivalent of 44,250 gallons of water," said Suber.

If you think 44,000 gallons of water seems like a bit much, it's enough to fill up an ordinary backyard swimming pool almost three times. Suber says when he got the bill, he immediately knew something was wrong.

"There's no way we used that much water," said Suber.

Between May and June, Suber says city workers replaced the water meter in his front yard, he feels that might have something to do with the odd-reading. He went to city water services to trying and argue the bill, but didn't get very far.

"They told me that I would have to pay the bill and then they would send someone to test the meter," said Suber.

After talking with his neighbors about his problem, Suber realized he wasn't the only one who saw a price spike. He says he ran into others at the water department complaining of this same problem too.

"This water bill is higher than my electric and gas bill. That's a car payment," said Suber. "That hurts."

Since our story yesterday, people from all over the city have called in and said they too got unusually high bills in June.. The City says they don't believe anything unusual happened.. But they DID fix the man's bill we told you about yesterday, and they say they are willing to work with others who have the same issue.

Jack Suber told us yesterday .. His June water bill was just unrealistic..  

Suber "There's no way we used that much water"

He was charged with using 44- thousand gallons worth of water… Today the city re-read his meter.. And say they don't know what went wrong, but the meter seems to have been read correctly. They reduced Suber's bill, bring the usage down to normal…

Since Suber's story aired Wednesday, WIS took dozens of calls from viewers. Others took to Twitter, and sent emails, saying they had the same problem. In June, their water bills were way outside the norm.

"The only thing that's happened recently is our rate did change," said Columbia Utilities and Engineering Director Joey Jaco. "So the May rate change would have been in the June water bills."

But, Jaco said that rate change would have affected the average household, with an increase around $5. People who have sent WIS copies of their bills say most have quadrupled.

Jaco said while it's not clear anything went wrong, the city is willing to work with the people affected.

"We need to know about it," said Jaco. "The rate increase would not have increased their bill by that much, obviously."

Jaco also said, if you did get a big bill, don't panic. Call the city's water services center. He says they will work with you to get the problem corrected, even if it's past your bill's due date.

If you have seen similar issues with your water bill you can call 803-545-3300 or click here.

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