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Couple hit with nearly $1000 'overdue' water bill

ENHAUT, Pa. (WHTM) - A Dauphin County couple got smacked with a nearly $1,000 overdue water bill.

"I get the bill every month, and I pay the [charge] that's on there," said Mary Smith. "I send it in by check, every month, I've never missed a payment."

Imagine Smith's surpirse last week when she opened her March bill from the Suez Water Comopany to find a $992.36 outstanding balance.

"Knocked my socks off," Smith said. "I pay my bills when they come in and I never knew I wasn't paying the right amount or whatever."

But according to a Suez spokesperson, she was - they told us their device on Smith's home that reports consumption was quote 'impaired', and hasn't been working properly for the past 22 months.

That, in turn, meant her bills for the same period - haven't been accurate, according to Suez.

 

"If they wasn't reading the meter correctly, that's their fault," said Smith, whose bill during that time frame was $20 or less. "I thought maybe, water went down or something...it never occurred to me that I wasn't paying the right amount."

Smith's daughter, Kimberly Williams, filed a complaint on her parents' behalf with the Public Utilities Commission.

Williams said whenever she got ahold of someone at Suez, she was told her parents should have noticed their bills weren't right.

"What consumer is gonna contact the water company and let them know 'hey, I may be paying a little too less here'...that's just not gonna happen today," Williams said. "I don't feel that it is our fault that we should have to pay a bill [when] your meter was reading incorrectly."

Smith said they don't want a handout - they just want to know why the company didn't reach out to inform them of the problem, letting it go unchecked for almost two years.

"If I wasn't paying the right amount, they should have caught that, that's their fault," said Smith. "If you don't pay the bill they turn your water off."

The malfunctioning device was fixed several weeks ago, and when it was reconnected - it triggered that $992.36 dollar bill.

Suez told abc27 News they plan to work with the Smith's and offer a payment plan to pay the money back; the Smith's, however, don't feel they should have to pay back anything at all.

Below is the entire statement from the Suez Water Company:

·         We determined that the electronic meter reading device wire that reports water consumption was impaired and did not communicate the customer’s continued usage.  We do not know what caused the disconnect.

·         When reconnected, the device showed usage dating back to the date when the issue developed.

·         The customer continued to use water as before, according to the water meter record, which was discovered when the reporting device was reconnected.  This customer’s monthly bill showed zero usage, which is generally a concern to customers when they continue regular usage.  The charge that accumulated was the monthly service charge billed all SUEZ customers.

·         Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) guidelines regarding this type of issue allow utilities to back bill for the measured usage.  We will offer to set up a payment arrangement with this customer that will provide up to 22 months for payment of the arrearage, which corresponds with the time frame that usage continued after the wire impairment.

·         We have enhanced our system of monitoring regarding electronic meter reading devices in order to discover issues like this sooner.


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