Water billing battle goes on

A Lacombe woman’s fight over a huge water bill continues after a plumber’s inspection found nothing wrong with her half-duplex’s water system.

A Lacombe woman’s fight over a huge water bill continues after a plumber’s inspection found nothing wrong with her half-duplex’s water system.

In March, Brookes Wallace was hit with a water bill of $1,028 for the month of February, suggesting 364 cubic metres of water was used in the property she owns that houses two tenants.

With no apparent leaks or evidence of accumulated water, Wallace was flabbergasted at the charge, which represented a 12-fold increase on her average monthly charge.

Even after an independent evaluation of her water meter found it to be almost perfectly accurate, Wallace could not believe the recorded water usage was correct, and now a plumber’s inspection has reinforced her stance.

“There is absolutely, positively, 100 per cent nothing wrong with my house,” Wallace told the Advocate following Tuesday’s inspection.

“There are no leaks, no nothing.”

The plumber is now looking back at Wallace’s past water bills to see if there is any trend, and will put together a report on the issue. Wallace, who has been told by City of Lacombe that the matter is resolved and been encouraged to set up a payment plan, is now contemplating going before city council, although she is not pleased with the prospect of having to plead her case in the council chambers.

Further reinforcing her belief that the bill represents an error is the fact that a number of Lacombe residents have reached out to her in support since learning of her plight.

One of those people is Shannon McQuaig. Her family of four moved into a new home in the Elizabeth Park subdivision last August. The home’s average water bill runs in the $70 range.

But February’s charge also was a big aberration for McQuaig. Her bill for the month effectively tripled, costing her $216 for the 58 cubic metres — about three times an average family’s monthly usage — that apparently passed through her meter.

She approached the city and was told something must be leaking; she did dye tests that showed nothing of the sort. She paid the bill and saw her meter readings return to normal in March. But after reading about Wallace’s story, she is now wondering if there is a larger trend of overcharging from February.

“I’m just behind (Wallace), because I think it’s ridiculous that (the city) would even assume that she would use that much water. To me, they’re being irresponsible by not looking into it further and just saying that she has to pay it,” said McQuaig.

Lacombe utilities and fleet manager Chris Huston said such instances do happen from time to time, with a running toilet or leaky faucet often to blame.

“Our stance is that if it goes through the meter, that water’s being used somewhere,” he said.

When tested, Wallace’s meter was 99.75 per cent accurate, which suggests that for every one cubic metre of water passing through it, the meter actually counts 0.9975 cubic metres.

Huston said customers do not realize how much extra water usage a leaking toilet or faucet can amount to. He said residents can always get leak testing packs from the city free of charge to use in their homes.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com

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