(Columbia) October 12, 2005 - Residents in one Northeast Richland county neighborhood are watching their water use closely.
One man from Laurel Chase wrote News 10, "I have never heard of my water bill equaling my mortgage payment, which is what it will be next billing if someone doesn't help us."
To make matters worse, many of his neighbors are paying much less.
For Shibu Kuncheriah, water has become a precious commodity. After he moved into the new Laurel Chase section of Lake Carolina in August, he got a surprise, "I come here, open up my water bill and it's $420 for a period of 13 days!"
His new neighbor, Sara Shrouds, got a $108 bill, for 6 days. "It's very frustrating," she says. "I have a 2-year-old at home, and I spend my day talking to the water company and builder trying to resolve this issue."
They had plumbers and landscapers check for leaks, none. And they've hardly used sprinklers.
There isn't much rhyme or reason. On one side of the street, some water bills are hundreds of dollars. On the other side, a different story, $15.
Shibu says, "Everyone keeps saying it's crazy, but no one knows exactly what's going on."
WIS asked the Columbia water department to come by. They think Sarah may have been charged mistakenly for water that builders used.
They say it might have had a reading on it before she actually moved in, "from the pressure washing and things of that sort."
At Shibu's house, the city notices say he's being charged for two meters, he only has one.
Rhonda Rhoden with the Columbia Water Department says, "It appears to be human error. Information documented in error."
They promise to look into both.
Essex homes in Lexington built the houses. President Carl Haslinger declined our interview request, but says he'll reimburse homeowners if they were billed for water consumed before they moved in, or for wrong meters, if that's the problem.
He'll also fix any leaks so customers won't eat the cost.
Reporting by Jennifer Miskewicz