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?

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