Brookes Wallace did not get the mid-winter blues and install and fill a swimming pool at the half-duplex she owns — but she is facing a water bill suggesting she did something of the sort.
The Lacombe resident could not believe her eyes a few weeks ago when her monthly water bill showed her owing $1,028, a 12-fold increase on the average charge of the residence where her two tenants live.
The bill corresponded with the 364 cubic metres of water that apparently passed through the residence’s water meter in February. At first incredulous, Wallace is now exasperated that she cannot find a sympathetic ear.
“I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do. I can’t get anybody to listen. I can’t get anybody to understand that a thousand dollar water bill just isn’t right. I’m feeling pretty defeated here,” said Wallace.
After receiving the bill, Wallace contacted the City of Lacombe, which agreed to have the home’s meter tested independently. That test, done by the City of Red Deer, showed the meter to be 99.75 per cent accurate, well within the city’s acceptable parameters.
While that test settled the matter for the city, Wallace maintains that there is no way her bill is right. She did a dye test in the home’s toilets to test for leaks and found nothing awry, with no other apparent problems anywhere on the property.
She has reached out to city administration, the mayor and councillors on the matter, but has not found the help she is seeking. The city’s position is that the meter was right and Wallace should set up a payment plan with them.
“The thing that’s really ticking me off is that the City of Lacombe councillors and the mayor, when your citizens reach out to you, you’re supposed to help them. Even respond. A phone call; something. I’m getting nothing with any of these people. I’m disgusted with the help I’m getting.
“I’d like to know how my little 900-and-some-square-foot duplex can use that amount of water and it can still be standing,” she said.
Wallace’s request to send the meter out for an additional test arranged by herself was turned down because the city does not give out its property. A new meter was installed following Wallace’s complaints, and she said the readings are back to normal.
“We are not sure where the water loss occurred from, but the water did flow through the meter,” said City of Lacombe communications officer Deven Kumar, “Our assumption is that there must have been a leak somewhere in the owner’s property which, of course, is the owner’s responsibility.”
Kumar said a leaky tap or toilet is often to blame when water bills spike.
The city does actual meter readings every eight weeks. When an unusual reading is spotted, one of the city’s utility staff notifies the residents so they can search for the culprit.
Between actual meter readings, the city issues bills based on estimates relating to average consumption. Kumar said such a large total will be excluded from calculations so as to not drastically affect Wallace’s average payments.
Wallace said she is not trying to dodge the bill, but plans to fight it “tooth and nail” until someone can tell her where all the water went.