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Woman receives $40,500 water/sewer bil from city

Two digits transposed by a meter reader caused a Sylvania resident to get a water and sewer bill for more than $40,000.

Lisa Kirkland said she was stunned when she read the bill for the house she shares with her mother and two other people on Abram Street. “The house isn’t worth that much,” Kirkland said. “I don’t make that much in a year.”

She said she filled a kiddie swimming pool a few times, but that was last summer.

She went to City Hall Monday afternoon to ask about the bill and said the clerk took her name and phone number and said someone would get back to her. Before noon Tuesday, the city had read the meter again, discovered the transposed numbers and fixed the mistake.

Utilities Director Tony Thompson said the meter reader keyed in “1,277” instead of “2,771” – an easy mistake to make when quickly typing numbers in a keypad.

Thompson said the bill with the mistake had Kirkland’s household using 8.5 million gallons of water in a month, up from 4,000 gallons the month before. To put that in perspective: The largest water user in the city – Sylvania Yarn Systems Inc. – uses about 2.8 million gallons of water each month. And everyone in the entire City of Sylvania – residential and commercial customers combined -- uses about 1 million gallons of water each day.

One household using 8.5 million gallons of water in a month? “That’d be like the Mississippi River running,” Thompson said.

He said he knows there have been “over-reads” and credits to bills before, but he doesn’t know if there’s ever been one as large as this one.

He said he could understand why the customer would be concerned about a $40,000 water and sewer bill. “If I got one like that, I’d be upset too,” he said.


Thompson said customers must pay for water that is wasted when they have a leak, even if it’s an underground leak and they don’t know about it. “You’ve got to pay for the water,” he said. “It’s a product produced by the city.”

Thompson said one toilet that runs constantly for a month could waste 40,000 to 50,000 gallons of water, and at a ballpark price of $2 per 1,000 gallons, that would cost $80 to $100 a month.

Kirkland said the re-calculated bill was much more reasonable, although still higher than she would prefer. Last month her family’s entire utilities bill, including water, sewer, gas, electricity and garbage was $305.41. This month’s total, after it was re-calculated: $454.74.

Kirkland was not happy about how the mistake was handled. “Everyone has a job to do, but there’s a way to do it,” she said. She said the clerk’s attitude was, “I don’t have to discuss this – all I have to do is tell you we’ll get back to you.”

That prompted Kirkland to bring the bill to the Sylvania Telephone office. And when she got a call from the city Tuesday saying there had been a mistake, she said she didn’t get an apology.

“No apology,” she said. “Just that it was a typo.”