Taking Action for You: 83-year-old woman stunned by $900 water bill
A plumber couldn't find a leak and the homeowner, Leota Killin, couldn't find an explanation for such a high bill.
“Well, I called immediately and then I sat down and cried,” Killin told Fox59.
First she called the plumber and found there was no leak. Then, she called Citizens Energy Group.
“They were very nice but they said I had to pay the bill,” Killin said. “I just kind of freaked out.”
Fox59 asked Citizens to check her meter, which they did. However, after removing and testing it, nothing was wrong, according to Sarah Holsapple with Citizens Energy Group. Holsapple said it was possible to rack up a bill that high.
Killin’s September bill is a result of estimated billing in August and an actual reading in July, plus the two hot, dry weeks before the watering ban took effect. Similar increases happened to others.
“While it doesn't seem like a person could consume that much water in a two-week period, they absolutely could and we've seen customers that did that,” Holsapple said.
Extremely high bills can come from irrigating a lawn or leaving a hose running accidentally, Holsapple pointed out.
“When we look back at her history, her usage does seem to spike in the summer, which would indicate she is watering,” Holsapple said.
Killin just added septic service to her bill so that increased her costs. Still, she doesn't think there is any way she used that much water.
“That’s still a big bill for a lady that lives alone and nobody knows where the water went,” Killin said.
“If the meter isn't malfunctioning, then we believe it is probably because of water use,” Holsapple said.
Citizens did agree to cut Killin’s bill almost in half as a one-time courtesy. She'll now be billed $447 and use a payment plan.
“If a customer is in a situation like that, we do want them to call us. We are willing to work with them,” Holsapple said. “But customers do need to realize that we have a job to do too and if someone has used a certain amount of water they are expected to pay it.”
Killin said she's likely going to turn off her water and try to use a well, fearful of another incident like this.
“I don't know what they'll do to me next, with all of this,” Killin said.
That was the last round of estimated billing so Citizen's Energy Group customers won't be dealing with estimated billing anymore. The only exception is a weather-related issue in which crews can’t read a meter.
The company will also see if Killin qualifies for the "Warm Heart Warm Home" program designed to give assistance to those with low incomes. If she qualifies, she'll get a $200 credit.