Small business fights $4,000 water bill

Small business fights $4,000 water bill

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - $4,000 is the highest water bill we've heard of yet and it's nearly 25 times what a local chiropractic office said its bills normally run.

The owner said he's been fighting this bill for a year. On Wednesday, he received yet another notice threatening to cut off service. The pink slip that arrived by mail is just the latest addition to the pile of records Dr. James Fields started collecting when his water bills went awry last fall.

"We were shocked, to say the least," Dr. Fields said.

After learning that a nearly $600 bill was just a mistake, Dr. Fields thought his water bills would drop back down to their usual $150 a month. Then December's bill arrived.

"What looks like happened was at some point in the billing, they just jumped from a 100 or so meter reading, all the way up to 700 plus," Dr. Fields explained. "And that's what gave us the exorbitant bill."

That bill totaled nearly $4,000 for a whopping 680 units of consumption. We did the math, and bill shows he used more than 500,000 gallons of water. Compare that to the same month the year before when he used less than 4,000 gallons, which is pretty typical.

"I have called multiple times throughout the year. And on each occasion, I'm usually transferred to a supervisor. The supervisor every time has told me they'll get back to me within the day or next day, and I've never had a return phone call," Dr. Fields explained.

Fields was offered a bill reduction, but he turned it down due to the fact his plumber said nothing was wrong.

"Why would I pay 70 percent of something that I never used?" Dr. Fields said.

Which leaves him constantly fighting to keep his water on to keep business going.

"We treat patients and we need to make sure we have water available to our patients, you know, for our restrooms and to keep our rooms moving. It's a very frustrating thing," Dr. Fields said.

WIS reached out to the city about this bill and we were told it's being looked into by customer service. We also have another interview set up with city manager Teresa Wilson to find out what the city's doing about customer complaints like these.

Also, on Wednesday night a drop-in was scheduled for city water customers to express their concerns to city officials at the Eau Claire Print Building until 8 p.m.

Update 12/8/16: Dr. Fields tells WIS on this date the City of Columbia credited him his late fees and said his water bill was a meter error. His bill is now down to about $200.

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