The Town of Lewiston issues its water bills every three months, and over the last few billing cycles, Jennifer Torrellas and her fiance Donald Stewart have called the Water Department because their bills were too high.
Each time, Torrellas said, an employee in the Lewiston Water Department’s business office would adjust the bill so it was more affordable.
But Torrellas said she was aghast when the January came in more than 30 times more expensive than the high bills, “Over $7,000. I don’t know the exact amount, but it was over $7,000.”
The town reduced the January bill by about a thousand dollars, telling the couple, their prior water usage was much more than they had been billed.
A town worker was sent to the house where Torrellas and Stewart live with their three children to check the water meter which was okay, but it indicated there was a leak somewhere in the family’s plumbing.
A couple of weeks later a water crew followed up, and found the leak–it was an outside spigot in front of the house–and they fixed it.
“They searched around our house for leaks,” Torrellas recalled, “they said that there was a leak coming from our outside water hose faucet. So he said he turned it off and the problem should now be fixed.”
Stewart recalled the same thing, “Whatever they did, they took the hose off, and then I guess there was a little water leaking right there, and they said that was the problem and that was it.”
Town Supervisor Steve Broderick said a former employee in the Water Department’s business office had been entering incorrect data into the billing system, which hid the higher usage due to the leak.
Town officials could not pinpoint how long the water had been leaking, and due to the human error involved in the billing. So Jennifer and Donald’s bill that had been reduced to $6,017 was chopped off by another $5,032, leaving them with a balance of $985.
Now that the leak has been fixed, Torrellas and Stewart are confident the big $7,000 bills are over, and Lewiston officials acknowledged if the couple could have fixed the leak a lot sooner the bill would not have been nearly as high.
The family is now on a level billing plan to pay off the previous balance.