Imagine opening the mail and finding a water bill for $1400. It happened to a Ragley woman who says it all stems from a broken pipe that had a huge leak. She says the meter reader got no answer when he knocked on the door and left the water running.
She says the $1400 bill came after a $500 bill. She says part of the problem stems from the water district using one meter for two houses, one with old pipes.
Lynnette Watkins checks her water meter every few days-- now that she knows what kind of huge bill can result from an undetected leak. "There's no way I could pay it. It's just me and my little boy. I'm barely making ends meet."
She says the meter reader discovered the leak but failed to notify her. She thought it was a mistake when she got the bill and called the district. They said to go out and check the meter to see if the number had been written down incorrectly.
Watkins says when she checked the meter as instructed, she found water gushing everywhere. Since there's a lag between the meter reading and the bill, she had already incurred a $1400 bill by the time the leak was discovered. The water district blames the leak on plumbing problems they say were the customer's responsibility, while Watkins disputes that. She thinks the district should forgive the leak, at least the cost after the meter reader discovered it. "They knew there was a leak and they should just fess up and say, 'Yes, we knew there was a leak, and I'm sorry we didn't turn it off. We should have turned it off and you're not responsible for that portion of the bill.'" She is a nurse and works at a hospital. "It's like me going into one of my patients rooms and seeing the patient bleeding to death. If I see the patient bleeding to death I'm going to just walk out of the room and say, 'Well, I'll wait until the doctor finds it.'"
Water district officials say they did try to notify Watkins by knocking on the door and calling the phone number on file.
General Manager Ray Hauser says they're looking into more ways to notify people. Hauser says they didn't turn off the water when the leak was discovered in case the large volume use was to care for cattle or irrigation...
Hauser says they cannot forgive the bill because to do so would amount to giving away public property. He says they are looking into additional ways to notify people if they discover a leak.