10.22.2010

advice needed: we really did not use all this water

Yesterday I received a water bill from the Region of Peel. These bills cover a three-month period and usually run around around $60.

My current bill is $494.43.

Our average daily water usage is usually 4M or 5M. On this bill, it's 38M.

[Correction: our past average daily consumption has been 330 litres, 538 litres, 337 litres, 404 litres, and so on. On this bill, our average daily consumption is 3,918 litres.

The 4M or 5M figure represents our consumption for the entire three-month period. On this bill, it is 38M.]

I don't know what unit of measurement an "M" is, but I know we didn't use an 38 of them - nine times our normal water usage.

I immediately called Peel, expecting to hear that they had a computer problem and were issuing everyone new bills. Instead, the rep suggested I check the meter to see if it coincided with their reading. It did. It was only very slightly higher from the end of the billing cycle until the day of my phone call. Thus, they said, we used this water. The end.

We've now placed several calls to Peel. We've been told that there is no way that a water meter can malfunction. It works, they say, much like an odometer. The car wheels turn, the numbers representing kilometers or miles turn with it. The water in the pipes moves past the meter, the numbers turn. The meter supposedly cannot accelerate or turn at an incorrect rate. So we are told.

The meter also has a flow indicator. If the flow indicator is moving, water is running in your home. So if you're not aware of any water use, but the flow indicator is moving, that means there is a leak. The flow indicator on our meter was not running.

The Region of Peel representatives tell us that the two most likely culprits for overly high water bills are running toilets or outside faucets left open, sometimes from vandalism. We have had neither. What's more, we've had a running toilet on occasion in years past, and it never accounted for anything even close to this kind of water bill.

We asked for a day-by-day breakdown of the billing cycle, so we could see exactly when this crazy water usage supposedly occurred. They said they cannot supply that.

Now a technician will come to the house to check the meter. But we're told this is done "as a courtesy," to see if there is a leak (which there isn't).

I usually pay my bill in full online, but in this case, I will write a cheque for the amount of a typical bill, as a show of good faith, and send it with a letter explaining the partial payment.

Then what?

How do I handle this? Can my MPP help me? The City of Mississauga? The Region of Peel does not appear to have an ombudsman. Ontario has an Ombudsman, and it appears that they handle municipal matters. Does this qualify? Is it too soon for to take that step?

Any advice?

10 comments:

Rick Barnes said...

I would get a hold of a municipal councillor if after the guy checks the meter and finds nothing wrong. It would appear there is a mistake if you did not use that much water.

Get a copy of your water bills going back as far as you can. This is an anomaly and they should recognize it as so.

The solution should be to charge you for your average usage. If it happens again, then you have a serious problem.

Your elected rep on council should be able to argue your case.

If that does not work, then call to ask to address council. It will be more difficult for bureaucratic processes to survive in the full light of the public.

Always remain calm but firm. Do not suggest staff are corrupt or deliberately causing problems.

good luck

WILLY said...

Any advice?

After the inspection, which might reveal a problem, but right now is a stalling tactic, (in other words we are doing something) keep pushing it further up the chain at Peel. Eventually you will usually find someone with logic that can make a decision.

Other than that, it is the Peel regional board that is made up of reps from the cities, i.e. Mississauga, So go the city councilor route also, they are looking for votes right now.

I also know a water inspector for Peel and will try to contact him on the weekend to see if this is common.

Good luck

Scott M. said...

Could be due to correcting estimations. I'd check to see if they've been reading the meter for previous (sets of) bills. They'll estimate your bill if they can't read your meter to your house for whatever reason -- Tala's outside, their truck broke down, etc.

If they don't have a meter reading they'll estimate it. This can go on for months and months (even years) until they finally get a meter reader out to your house. When they finally read it, and find your water usage has been much more than they've been estimating they'll do a true-up which will show that you've used all the water during that bill.

ie. if they've estimated 4M for the last 6 bills and you've used 10M in reality each of those bills, when the true-up happens you'd have a 40M bill.

This happened to me with Ontario Hydro when I was in Keswick and I was *NOT IMPRESSED*. There was no reason they couldn't read the meter - it was clear for months, but they only sent someone out in May then in November. They woefully underestimated our electricity usage (despite having history with us... aargh) then showed the November bill as using all the electricity.

Of course, with Hydro, over a particular limit you pay more for electricity, so suddenly we were paying the higher premium on electricity that was actually used in previous months and if billed correctly would have been billed under the limit of those months. Took forever and a day to get fixed.

===

There's also the possibility that a neighbour filled their pool with your water. This has happened too.

I recommend you let them do a full investigation and see what's up. If you don't pay the bill the overage will magically appear on your landlord's property tax bill and she won't be happy with that, so it's worth working with the city on this.

Scott M. said...

BTW, "M" might mean "Metered" as in they read your meter.

Do previous bills show "E" in the same place (for "E"stimate)?

L-girl said...

Thanks, all. Some replies:

- I would never suggest this was done deliberately or is any staff person's fault! I.e., I am not insane.

- Peel does recognize that this is bill is not typical and is an anomaly. That alone makes no difference to them - because if, as they say, a toilet was running continually for months, that would be an anomaly, but we would still responsible for the bill.

- No bills were estimates. This is not a correction of estimates.

- M is an abbreviation for some form of measurement. I'm not sure what it stands for, but it's not metered vs estimate, unfortunately.

- No neighbour filled their pool with our water. To do so would entail jumping several fences, having an incredibly long hose, and being seen. We do have one neighbour with a pool but they didn't do that.

- Municipal councillor: I'll try it. He's being re-elected on Monday, I'll give him a call after that.

L-girl said...

Also:

@Scott, that hydro story...yeesh, that must have sucked.

We did inform the landlord about this, just in case Peel ends up involving him. He totally gets that it's a mistake and that we're fighting it.

@Willy, if you could contact that person and get back to me, that would be amazing. Feel free to email me at the address listed at the top of this blog.

L-girl said...

I just corrected a mistake in the post. I had confused average daily usage with usage for the billing cycle - now corrected.

deb said...

We recently had a similar encounter with Hydro in Quebec. I only found out that our account was linked to another person's account when I registered to view bills online. They never admitted that our higher bills were due to an additional residence being on our account but due to the privacy issues I raised, they started us out from scratch and forgave a bunch of bills.

Hopefully you can get to the bottom of the problem. It's a huge inconvenience, not to mention costly and stressful! Good luck

L-girl said...

Deb, thanks for sharing that - very interesting! I wonder if something similar is going on here. It's good to know that's a possibility.

off-topic

I clicked on your name and quickly perused your blog. The first book you named as one that will always stay with you is probably the one I'd name first, or at least in the top three. It's come up several times on this blog when we talk about my YA writing or our early influences or my wanting to be a YA librarian.

/off-topic

thedtbmister said...

I think it is possible for water meters to malfunction. Years ago when I was around 11 my parents had bought a house in Arizona and a few months after we moved in because we were in a county island and a nearby city got in a fight with the local water company the city took our meter. Anything is possible in my opinion.