New water meters are showing up this week in Hendersonville in the wake of questions raised by the News 4 I-Team.
These meters come immediately after the I-Team started investigating high water bills.
Customers with the White House Utility District said they’re accustomed to water bills around $100 a month. But one homeowner’s most recent water bill was almost $1,000.
After moving into his new home back in August, Kevin Riley was prepared for a high water bill.
“When I got the bill, it was $586,” Riley said. “And the first thing I thought was, well, they got me too.”
For weeks he said he'd been listening to his neighbors complain about their outrageous water bills. He thought it must have been a mistake.
In his previous home, which was bigger and just a few miles away, he never had a water bill higher than $150. He asked the White House Utility District about it.
"They just said I’m using a lot of water,” Riley said.
That’s the same response Nicole Mitchell, who lives next door, said she received when she asked about her water bill. Her bill for one month was almost $900.
"There’s no way that we used 48,000 gallons of water this month,” Mitchell said.
Another bill sent to the I-Team shows more than $500.
"It has to be some glitch either on the reader, the smart reader that we're using or something internally with White House Utility District,” said Hendersonville Alderman Darrell Woodcock.
Woodcock said he's received more than 50 comments on his Facebook page alone from customers who are all convinced they're being over-billed.
"When you have so many different people from so many different subdivisions all experiencing a similar problem, it's pretty hard to say all these people got together and decided to fill a pool that they don't have on the same day,” Woodcock said.
So why are so many customers suddenly seeing such high water bills? The I-Team went to the White House Utility District to find out.
“Are people being billed incorrectly?” the I-Team’s Lindsay Bramson asked.
“Not that I’m aware of, no,” said White House Utility District General Manager Bill Thompson.
“Almost $900, $500. I mean, these are high bills. Do you see why these homeowners are questioning them?” Bramson asked.
“Sure. I would question them if I got one,” Thompson said.
Thompson said they've received only four formal complaints from customers directly, but said they are now investigating what's behind the high bills. That started once the I-Team began asking questions.
One day after our interview with Thompson, some customers’ meters were being switched out to check for accuracy.
Many of these customers seeing abnormally high water bills are people who just moved in to newly built homes. Thompson said sometimes the builder doesn't pay for whatever water they use, leaving homeowners stuck with the bill.
"And so there's discrepancies in between. There's what the builder owed or the developer owed versus what the new homeowners owed,” Thompson said.
The district ended up adjusting both Riley and Mitchell’s water bills, taking more than half the amount owed off. But it's still more money than both say they should have to pay.
“Did that satisfy you?” Bramson asked.
“It was a win in the beginning. I guess it helped. I wasn't completely satisfied because I thought, who wants a $300 water bill every month? That’s a car payment, or in some cases two car payments,” Riley said.
It's still unclear exactly what's causing the high bills, but the water company said it will continue to investigate and work with customers who believe their bills are higher than they should be.
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