Water bill costs Columbia woman thousands

Water bill costs Columbia woman thousands

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We all dread opening the bills when they arrive, especially those utility bills that fluctuate month to month.

For one Columbia woman, opening the water bill each month has become a nightmare that's cost her thousands the last couple of years.

Lolita Baens has lived in her home since 1982 and always knew what to expect when the utility bills arrived. But now, years after everyone has moved out but she and one son, she's been fighting against the highest water bills she's had - higher than most of us have ever seen!

"$30, $52, $70,  and then in July, it jumped to $905," Baens said.

For the last year and a half, Lolita Baens has fought a losing battle when it comes to her water bill. The retired nurse reached out to WIS after her bill spiked to triple digits more than a half dozen times.

"Every time a water bill comes, and I see the envelope from water customer service, I'm nervous because I think how many hundreds this time, how many hundreds I have to pay?" Baens said.

The first spike came in 2014.

"$30 to $121 then $257," Baens said.

It eventually tracked down, but it began to climb once again in 2015, topping $900 in July.

"That's where I went to customer service. After that, it went back down to $354," Baens said.

Lolita says the high bills are unpredictable and unexpected. She's visited the city on multiple occasions but to little avail.

"Maybe 4 to 6 times, and they're always telling me they have to check the meter. And then when I go back there, they say there's nothing wrong with your meter. So what can I do?" Baens said.

This year, the discrepancies have continued, increasing nearly $500 from March to April. It dropped just a bit to $319 in May before dropping back down to $32 in June, then eventually climbing once again.

"Every day I go to church, and I've been praying for someone to help me with my water bills," Baens said.

While the city's offered a few credits, it's only minimized, not erased, Lolita's largest bills. Leaving her to fear how many hundreds she'll need to shell out next month.

WIS reached out to the City of Columbia's water department and they said they will take another look at Lolita's case, including her billing history.

If you're in a similar position the water department recommends knowing how to read your meter so you can watch for spikes and dips. To learn how and for other city resources, click here.

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