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WSSC customers upset over high water bills

Friday - 3/14/2014, 5:45am  ET

WASHINGTON -- For the second day in a row, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission customers in Montgomery County have complained to their local council member that their water bills are through the roof.

But Jerry Irvine, with the WSSC, says there's no glitch in the billing system and the high bills are the likely result of three things: An extended billing period because meter readers were unable to get to snowed in neighborhoods, increased use because customers and their families were spending more time at home thanks to snow days, and breaks in water lines due to the harsh weather.

Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner remains skeptical, "I don't buy it. I think there's something else going on here."

Irvine says the WSSC got 24 complaints in 24 hours and after chasing them all down was able to resolve the issues. Again, he chalks it up to increased use and leaks.

But can you really flush your way to double your water bill? Irvine says that's not likely, but when you figure an extended billing period, add in increased use with whole families doing more laundry, washing more dishes and taking more showers, "When you put those together, you can see where you might typically have a $250 dollar bill and now you're in a high $300 that's not really out of the realm of possibility if you start to do the math on that."

But when you see a dramatically higher bill - Berliner says one customer got hit with a whopping $4,500 bill, Irvine says that's flagged as a potential leak and indeed that was the issue on that sky-high bill.

Berliner says in the past, when customers disputed bills with the WSSC, the utility would simply use last year's bill from the same time period to make the adjustment. Now, WSSC is sending out meter readers.

Irvine explains why this way: "If we had done estimations, you could go six months and not know you have a leak on your property."

This way, Irvine says, you can find out faster if there's a so- called "silent leak" and your bill can be adjusted accordingly.

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