Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Caroline Angelo

“Dear PoPville,

In paying the bills for my small condo building this month I noticed our water bill was $160 more than our usual bill. When I called DC Water initially on Friday, the representative noted extreme usage over the course of 4 days in August and directed me to the meter reading portion of their site and suggested I set up an alert system in the event of future aberrations. To outline the difference in usage a little clearer, over the course of said 4 days the building had apparently used the same amount of water we usually consume in a full month.

I flagged the issue for the other owners in the building and asked if anyone noticed anything funny happening, I was out of town for the exact dates but my roommate did not note anything out of the ordinary. I heard back from the other owners and it turns out the tenants in two of the units were out of town (one set was gone for almost all of August) and the third owner was personally out of town but his girlfriend was home and didn’t notice anything weird either.

Armed with the information that half of the units were completely unoccupied and half had only one person in residence at the time of the high usage I called DC Water again. When I asked about contending the bill based on the unlikelihood of 2 people tearing through a month’s worth of water in 4 days, I was told that DC Water does not allow contentions to bills unless a certified plumber first checks each fixture in the entire building and signs off on a report that nothing is amiss. The representative didn’t seem to willing or capable of answering me why it is considered more likely that there was a 4-day long “episode” of extreme water usage than that there was an issue with their electronic meter reading software. I should also note that 3 of the 4 toilets in the building have new kits as of the last 2 years, and the 4th no one was in residence for most of August so it is unlikely the toilet ran for a random 4 days rather than the whole month.

I don’t think there is any trust or love for DC Water considering the lack of transparency in the planning or timeframe for the infrastructure improvements (2 years ago when I asked about the expected timeframe for the project I was told 20 years or simply indefinitely), price hikes for the improvements, or their new over the top headquarters. Acknowledging all of that, is there any recourse here to challenge bills like this? Outside of the principle of not paying a bill I believe is grossly inflated I am concerned that this situation could arise again at any point and I’d be in the same position. I also don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a plumber vs. the additional $160 to just eat the cost of this bill. Has anyone had success fighting DC Water over situations like this, and if so what was your course of action?”

While we’re on the topic – from DC Water:

“DC Water today announced the creation of a new 19-member Stakeholder Alliance, a panel of residents who will provide informal input to the General Manager on a range of timely and important issues.

The group, which will have its first meeting on September 20, allows for a larger number of voices from more District residents and business groups as DC Water considers potentially far-reaching changes.

“My hope is that this group of residents feel empowered by this process and share their ideas with us,” said DC Water CEO and General Manager David L. Gadis. “Giving folks a larger stake in our future will help us build a consensus.”

Gadis announced the panel ahead of a planned review of the Clean River Impervious Area Charge, or CRIAC, which is used to fund the cost of cleaning up the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, along with Rock Creek. The tunnel and diversion system is being built as a result of a federal lawsuit against the District government, but the unfunded mandate comes with substantial costs.

Alliance meetings will be facilitated by Monte Monash of Monash Advisory Group. Members include: Jim Foster, Anacostia Watershed Society; Trey Sherard, Anacostia Riverkeeper; Jacqui Bowens, DC Hospital Association; Father Allan Johnson-Taylor, Rock Creek Park Church; Kirsten Williams, AOBA; Emeka Moneme, Federal City Council; Craig Muckle, Archdiocese of Washington; Natalie Avery, DC BID Council; Rob Robinson, DC Consumer Utility Board; Solomon Keene, Hotel Association of DC; and Sally Kram, Consortium of Universities. In addition, Valerie Baron from Ward 1, Eric Langenbacher from Ward 2, Andrea Molod from Ward 3, Randy Speck from Ward 4, Rev. Mike Thompson from Ward 5, Rev Willie Wilson from Ward 7, and District residents Monte Edwards and Lisa Barton. Appointees from Ward 6 and 8 are still to come.

The Alliance meetings will be held at DC Water facilities. The group was selected with input from a variety of organizations and the interested parties, including the DC Council. More information on the Alliance will be available at www.dcwater.com.”


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