Baltimore City

When the water bill is $50,000: Hundreds of Baltimore customers hit with incorrect bills

Hundreds of customers of Baltimore’s water system were hit this week with bills of more than $50,000 each.

The Baltimore Department of Public Works said Thursday that officials are reaching out to 566 customers who were sent “erroneous inflated” bills.


City officials blamed the incorrect bills on a weekend software upgrade that created problems.

“Despite extensive testing of the software, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Customer Support and Services Division learned that some bills went out with extraordinary amounts,” the city said in a statement.


The city stopped sending out water bills once the error was discovered, and officials pledged not to resume billing until the flaw is fixed.

Of the 566 erroneous bills that went out, most were for more than $50,000, according to the city.

“This is not acceptable, and I am insisting we strengthen our billing safeguards,” said Rudolph S. Chow, the director of public works. “I have directed staff to send letters to all those customers affected by this error, and to make direct contact in every case possible.”

Chow said customers affected by the error “should know that we will make the necessary corrections and not allow this to negatively impact their account.”

Baltimore has had problems with its water-billing system for years. In 2012, the city had to refund about $9 million that it had overcharged residents and companies. Recently, as the city switched to a new billing system, residents have complained of receiving bills in excess of $80,000.