89,000 gallons of water = $1,400 water bill = H2O Woes
by Haisten Willis
March 28, 2014 04:00 AM | 4315 views | 6 6 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rolake Tomori got a big surprise recently when she opened her monthly water bill.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Rolake Tomori got a big surprise recently when she opened her monthly water bill.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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The city’s meter said she used 89,000 gallons, equaling a water bill of more than $1,400.
The city’s meter said she used 89,000 gallons, equaling a water bill of more than $1,400.
slideshow
A local woman got an unwanted surprise in the mail this month when her water bill came in at more than 20 times the normal amount.

Rolake Tomori has rented a home off Barnes Mill Road since 2011 and says her water bill typically hovers between $50 and $60 a month, about 3,500 gallons worth. But her most recent bill said she owes Marietta Power and Water $1,400.

The reason? The city’s meter said she used 89,000 gallons.

“I called customer service,” Tomori said. “She said you’re stuck. … I’m a single parent, I have a daughter in college.”

Tomori is an immigrant from Nigeria who grew up in England. A psychologist, her son is a student at Marietta High School, and her daughter attends Yale University.

Alarmed by the high bill, Tomori has had two separate plumbers come out, A&G Rooter and Hunt Contracting and Remodeling, both of which said they found no leaks. One of them even warned her that the meters used by the city are known to have issues.

“We did notice that the water company has installed an electronic water monitor on your meter,” wrote Ken Hunt, owner of Hunt Contracting, on the inspection statement. “These have been well-documented on local news channels as giving false readings.”

Tomori’s meter was installed in 2010. Officials with MPW said meters typically slow down over time rather than speed up and that they are usually replaced after 10 years only because of revenue loss.

The city has told her she has to pay the bill in full or have her water shut off. Because Marietta also handles power and trash service, Tomori worries those will be cut off as well.

Ron Mull, director of customer care at Marietta Power and Water, said the city has been in constant contact with Tomori and checked the meter several times throughout the month.

Mull said the meter was first checked March 14 showing 89,000 gallons had been used. Noticing the high output, the city sent someone to check again and in the three hours between readings the meter showed another 1,000 gallons ran through her system.

“We billed accordingly,” Mull said. “She got her bill for $1,400.”

The meter was checked a third time March 19, Mull said, and another 7,000 had been used. The city later used a leak detector showing no water was being used at the time of the reading.

While it would seem the lack of leaks is good news for Tomori, the opposite may be true. MPW can give discounts for excessive water usage, but only under the right circumstances.

“For us to do a leak adjustment we’d have to have documentation demonstrating a leak,” Mull said. “We have to have documentation for us to give credit back as well. We can’t just say, ‘OK, we’ll forget about it.’ We actually have to pay for it when it comes through the wholesale meter. That’s all been explained to the customer. She seemed to be OK with it initially. I know it’s a big bill, but whatever the problem was seems to be corrected now.”

Something as simple as a leaky toilet could use up 89,000 gallons in a month if it’s running wide open, according to Mull. To give an idea how much water that is, Mull said 89,000 gallons could fill “a couple of pools.”

But Tomori holds that this type of problem doesn’t go away on its own.

“Do you think an 89,000-gallon leak would just clear itself up?” she asked. “I do not like drama, but I know for a fact they are going to disconnect my water and my electricity.”

Liz Coyle, executive director of consumer advocacy group Georgia Watch, feels the city should work with Tomori. She said the customer should pay her bill — her typical $50 bill — and fight the charge until a resolution can he reached.

“It sounds like extortion,” she said. “Obviously this is very troubling that someone would be told we’ll cut off your water if you don’t pay.”

Coyle suggested Tomori reach out to her elected officials, Mayor Steve Tumlin and her local Marietta councilman, and see if they will help out. She raised the possibility someone could be stealing water from Tomori, but said that seems unlikely considering the amount of water involved.

“Clearly, it’s illogical to think this individual would so dramatically increase her water usage, especially considering the fact that both she and the city have determined there is not a leak,” said Coyle. “Marietta needs to be reasonable, come to the table and discuss some other outcome other than ‘Pay the bill or we will turn off your water.’”

Tomori’s payments can be spread over a period up to the three months, but ultimately she has to pay the bill, Mull said. He added that the city usually gets at least one or two complaints similar to hers each month, but often the problem is a leak.

The water bill is more than Tomori pays in rent each month. Her landlord has been helpful and paid for the plumber to check the home, but ultimately it is her problem.

“If you had an 89,000-gallon leak, you would see something,” Tomori said.

Comments
(6)
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Happy Herman
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March 29, 2014
She pays LESS than $1400 per month for that Mac Mansion she lives in? Wow ! She is getting a real bargain there. She used the water by a faucet left running. She is just trying to get out of paying for the water she used. Also, being a psychologist should pay her enough to cover $1400. Get over it Rolake.
Robert Hand
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March 28, 2014
I am an old plumber; 40 years. I belive lady used this water. Toilet rarely used constantly running, faucet left on during winter months. I have seen people with busted water hose running wide open for weeks. I think she corrected simple problem before plumber was called
Borne Sudsy
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March 28, 2014
Wow, Marietta, I thought you were better than this. Clearly it's a meter reading issue; no leaks have been confirmed. She's done her due diligence to get 2 companies to confirm no leak. How could you not work with this woman? I'd say we should set up a collection to help her out, but the company doesn't deserve a dime.
Water a rip off
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March 28, 2014
SO Marietta water stated they went out several times the same day and the meter was showing she was using an unusually high amount of water. Plumbers have stated it is not a water leak. I would say it is the meter, yet MC is going to make her pay a bill that is not correct because of their meter?
west cobber
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March 28, 2014
Agree with "What a rip off". Did they change the meter? They actually see unusual behavior of the water flow and/or meter and just leave? What rights does a homeowner have to find out if Marietta's equipment is faulty?
MBLW Customer
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March 28, 2014
If they were so concerned about the water they should get with the times and install a meter that would help customers when this happens.

No one benefits in situations like thie.
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