WENDELL, N.C. — Most people use about 36 gallons of water for a bath and 40 gallons for the washing machine. Still, a Wake County man could not figure why his water bill was so high, so he called Five On Your Side for help.
Tripper Parham's December water bill from the town of Morrisville was nearly $190. It says he used 18,000 gallons in just one month. The amount was about 10 times what he normally uses and more than three times the amount of water the average family of four uses in a month.
"I thought maybe they read the wrong meter or billed me for the entire building," Parham said.
Parham had good reason to believe it was a mistake. Last year, his meter was misread and he was overcharged. He received a $160 bill. The town admitted the error and immediately credited his account, but this time, a town worker checked the reading and said the bill is accurate.
"I told them that if I believed at all that I could have used that much water, I would have paid it with no problem, but it's just not possible," he said.
Parham said he was then told the city could test the meter, but if nothing was wrong, he would have to pay $200.
The town also offered to credit the sewer portion of the bill if an outside faucet was left on, but Parham said he never uses that faucet, so he called Five on Your Side.
After the call, Town Manager John Whitson personally went to Parham's condo to check the reading. He also had the meter tested free of charge. It all checked out.
"We have double, triple, quadruple-checked this one to make sure that the readings have been correct," he said.
Whitson said the only thing he can do is give Parham an almost $100 sewer credit. Parham is not happy, but he will pay the rest of the bill anyway.
"If I don't pay it, then they'll turn my water off and it's not worth it," he said.
Whitson said the town cannot just lower Parham's bill or anybody else's water bill because that would not be fair to all the other residents. The North Carolina Utilities Commission does not regulate municipal utilities, so there's no agency to appeal to.