BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A surge of customers are reporting inexplicable increases on their Birmingham Water Works bills.
From inaccurate meter readings, to exorbitant sewer fees, complaints vary from customer to customer.
Some monthly statements are skyrocketing into the triple digits.
Melissa Scott lives an apartment in Vestavia Hills, where she said her water bill was never more than $100 during her three years there.
In August, her bill was $171. In September, $391.
The trend continued for Scott; her highest bill was $588 in December, and dropped to $348 last month.
After complaining to the Birmingham Water Works Board, Scott said they sent a crew out to look for leaks, but couldn’t find any.
“The process of ruling out leaks took months, cost money, and (was) an inconvenience to our family as many workers were in and out of our home for months,” Scott said.
Scott said she then went to BWW’s customer service office.
“I was told by the worker assisting me that the guys who come out each month to read the meter had not been coming out, and that the meter readings that showed up on our bills were made up numbers,” Scott said.
Scott said she was eventually credited, but she believes she wasn’t given as much as she was owed.
She said her family had to dip into their savings, just to keep their water running.
“Something smells to high heaven,” said David Wright, in a crowded parking lot outside the BWW customer service office Friday.
Wright was one of many customers there to question a higher-than-normal water bill.
The parking lot was so crowded, drivers impatiently honked at one another, and at one point, two cars collided and an on-site police officer had to step in.
Wright said his billing issues began when drought restrictions went into effect last year.
“They were telling us to save water, but yet I had the highest bill I’ve ever had,” he said. “We did not put a garden in, we skipped washing cars, things like that.”
Wright said his bill went from about $35 per month, to roughly $60 after the drought. Wright said he took that statement to customer service, which he said promised to credit him on his next statement.
Wright said his next two statements were around $50.
Last year, the Birmingham Water Works Board decided to raise rates by 3.9%. That should not lead to such a significant change in billing.
BWW also switched to a new billing system in November, which made for extra days in many customers’ billing cycles and resulted in larger invoices.
When asked about specific complaints, Anitra Hendrix, a spokeswoman for BWWB said each specific account would need to be reviewed.
However, many customers say the wait times to get attention from BWW are too long.
“You get on the phone with them, and you see there’s 93 customers ahead of you? Come on,” said Kathy Clark.
Clark also tried to dispute a statement Friday, but left when she saw the crowd in the parking lot.
Hendrix said customers have more options when it comes to contacting the utility.
She said customers can fill out a form at bwwb.org/reportaproblem, visit the Birmingham Water Works Facebook page, or send a direct message to @BhamWaterWorks on Twitter.
“Customers can send us a direct message regarding their issue and one of our employees will follow up with them,” Hendrix said.