Troubleshooter: Outrageous water bill

DURHAM Lorraine Williams lives with her grand-daughter in a small home in Durham, so her typical water bill adds up to about $40 a billing cycle.

Williams says when she opened up her City of Durham water bill and saw that she used more than 369,000 gallons of water in just three months, she couldn't believe it.

"Oh my god, I passed out, I had a panic attack," she said. "I never used that much water since I've been living here. No one can use that much water and I only have one bathroom."

Williams says she went straight to the City's water department to dispute the bill.

"No this is a true bill, and I said I didn't use $4,000 worth of water, what am I doing supplying the whole zip code with water," she said. "They asked me how much am I going to pay on this bill, and I said I'm not going to pay this bill."

Williams says a representative at the water department told her she now has a new digital meter at her home so the reading was accurate.

"We'll send someone out to your house to investigate, and they re-read the meter," she said.

But despite re-reading the meter, Williams says they didn't document her meter wasn't new, it's still the old one, despite the bill saying her meter was replaced.

Williams took a picture of her old meter, and took it back to the water department.

"That's you're old meter, now you have a new meter, you have a new number ... but I'm trying to tell you I still got the old meter down and they won't believe that," she said.

Fed up, Williams contacted ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson for help.

"Either put a new meter in there or find out what's going on," Williams said.

ABC11 got in touch with the Durham Water Department, and they sent a rep out to Williams' house and discovered she was right, her meter was never changed out and she still has her old meter.

So how did the outrageous bill for $4,300 come about? The City rep says, it's a mistake, as the meter they got the reading from, is actually for the meter across the street at Williams' neighbors and somehow it was registered as Williams' new meter.

Since the bill wasn't accurate, Williams is no longer responsible for the $4,300 bill. She says she is thrilled the City finally realized their mistake.

"Just happy they knew I wasn't going to roll over and play dead and accept the fact that I didn't know what I was talking about," Williams said.

The rep with the City of Durham also apologized for the confusion and said occasionally a bill does go out in error. She said Williams will get a new meter, as its all part of the Automated Meter Reading Project.

And just to make it clear, Williams' neighbors didn't use that much water either, it was just a problem with the meter numbers, so no one actually consumed that much water.

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