Photo: Blayne Beacham
Atlanta, Ga.-based realtor Blayne Beacham knew something was wrong when her she opened up her water bill last July.The bill was many times the usual amount, totaling $497. Figuring a leak was the a problem, she called a handyman over to her three-bedroom home to check things out.
While he fiddled with her bathroom toilets and replaced all the valves and handles (there was no leak to be found), she appealed the bill to the city’s Department of Watershed Management and set up a $100/month payment plan to keep them off her back in the meantime.
But “they turned down my appeal,” Beacham said in a blog post detailing her experience. “Basically they sent someone out to check my meter and said there was nothing wrong with the meter. On October 13, I got a notice in the mail saying that my entire balance––$384.26––was due that day or they would turn off my water.”
She bit the bullet and paid, but by the time December rolled around, her bill had ballooned to $758.93.
“We called the water department and worked out an agreement where I would pay them $120 a month until I could get a court date,” said Beacham, who lives alone. “That number was based on my neighbour down the street’s average monthly water bill.” Her neighbour also has four children.
She even went so far as to tally up her water usage per month, keeping track of every flush, load of laundry, dishwasher cycle and shower she took over a 30-day period.
“I can’t think of any other time I use water unless I am drinking it or rinsing my dishes,” she said. “(My dog) Sister gets one tiny bowl of water a day, and I am thinking of asking her to cut back.”
The water department sent another representative to check her meter but nothing turned up out of the ordinary. A return visit from the handyman yielded no other clues and Beacham shelled out another $600 to the water company while awaiting her court date.
By spring, her bill totaled $1,430.00 worth of back charges plus another $1,155.82 that was left unpaid in April. When all was said and done, even with a certified plumber declaring her meter glitch-free, Beacham lost her appeal to the water department.
“I called back the public relations manager to see what I should do moving forward,” she said. “This time she told me that after looking at my consumption history, they decided that I had a leak in the past and got it fixed. This is absolutely absurd. I have no way of proving I did not get a leak fixed, because I did not have a leak…I am at the end of my rope.”
In mid-June, Beacham opened the mail to find she was in deeper than she thought: She owed $9,224.40: “$2,638.68 worth of past charges, and $6,705.72 worth of new charges,” she said.
According to Watershed Management spokesperson Janet Ward, they’re trying to get to the bottom of the issue.
“We did install a data logger, which measures hour-by-hour usage that can help us determine if there are any times of the day when usage seems out of kilter,” Ward told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “So that means we can’t know anything until the middle of July,” since the meter has to run for 30 days.
As of Wednesday, Beacham had wrapped up another round of meetings with the company but told Business Insider by phone that things are still up in the air.
“I’ve had meetings with them and the problem is just unresolved,” she said. “They’ve given me a little more time to do some research.”