Retired engineer uses milk jug, simple math to beat $1,000 water bill

Retired engineer uses milk jug, simple math to beat $1,000 water bill

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's an ongoing problem in the city of Columbia. After we shared several stories of spiking water bills and what many are calling unfair charges, one man came forward to share his story.

Robert Buys said after nearly a dozen trips to customer service where no one could help him without about a thousand dollars in overcharges, he came to the ombudsman's office -- the impartial employee whose job it is to assist citizens with disputes helped him get the charges credited.

But it was Robert's own quick thinking as a retired engineer that helped him use an empty milk jug and his water faucet to finally prove to the city that his water meter was reading incorrectly.

Buys said his water bill problems started in 2013.

"The bill went up and the water usage went three, four times what it would normally be," said Buys.

As a retired engineer, Buys was quick to look for a solution.

First, he checked for leaks, then he called a plumber to do the same. When one didn't show up, he called in the city to check his meter, but no error was found.

"The plumber did advise me that the water company was a little difficult to deal with," said Buys.

So Buys took matters into his own hands, filling a gallon container 20 times, doing a quick conversion to cubic feet and then reading his meter to see if that's what was actually consumed.

"My meter was reading two-and-a-half to three times what it should," said Buys.

After finding a solution he continued his fight for reimbursement, but it wasn't until he got the ombudsman on board and threatened a lawsuit that the city caved and credited him for the mistake.

"My concern is that if I had been a single mom with a couple of kids, working, I wouldn't have stood a chance. If I get duped out of $1,000, imagine what's happening to other people," said Buys.

To contact the City of Columbia ombudsman, call Chanique Belton at 803-545-3546.

Copyright 2016 WIS. All rights reserved.