Columbia, SC (WLTX) -When Pastor Thomas Rich got his water bill last February, he was almost certain there was a typo. The water bill was $800. For a full year, they say they've received these out of the ordinary charges.
"I always remembered the bill was $26.95 every month," said Susan Rich.
Word of Faith Christian Center has been in Columbia for more than 20 years. As a small church they never expected to be hit with such high water bills.
"There is no one here. All we have is public bathrooms and a kitchen sink," said Thomas Rich.
The Rich's say the city allowed them to pay half of the 800 dollar bill. The next month the bill was even higher.
"We did everything we know to do, we called in a plumber, we had everything checked inside and out and there were no leaks," said Rich.
The church even got a new water meter and put locks on all of their outside faucets. Missy Gentry with the City of Columbia says the outstanding bills are shocking, but believes it could be because of a recent rate increase.
"A lot of churches and non profits may have multiple meters, so as the base rate increased that would have affected each meter that they have," said Gentry.
Gentry says the city council may lower the base rate, but says they would need to investigate the Word of Faith's situation because of the irregularity in their bills.
"What I would need to do is look at this specific account and see if we can figure out what is going wrong with the water meter and that's a service that we offer anyway," said Gentry.
For the Rich's they say the city has been to their church several times and all they do is re-read the meter.
The big bills hurt the church where it matters the most. They are using less money to do mission work helping others around the country.
"If it was a couple hundred dollars I could say maybe a faucet could have been left open.... but 800 dollars there is no way on earth that that could happen," said Rich.
We are going to continue to work with the city until this problem is fixed.