"I Was Numb", Columbia Woman Questions Water Bills

Imagine opening your water bill and seeing you owe hundreds of dollars. That happened to one Midlands woman.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- When you open your water bill, you expect to pay less than $50. But one woman in Columbia opened a water bill that was $485.

"I don't waste water. Right now, the water that's in here is bothering me and it's not a whole lot."

Dora Tucker is conscious about the amount of water she uses.

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"I would run water in the sink and use it for other purposes, once the water went cold. I don't throw water away. Water is precious," she said.

That's why she was shocked when she opened her water bill back in December. It was $485, when it's usually under $30 every month.

"I was numb because I couldn't think of why that would be," said Tucker.

To figure out why her bill was high, Tucker called her plumber to see if there were any leaks in and around her house.

"He went under the house and went in the attic. He said there should have been water everywhere and we would have heard the water," she said.

The plumber didn't find a leak, so Tucker went directly to the city of Columbia to get some answers.

"My experience with customer service was not a very nice one," she said.

Tucker was still left with a $485 water bill when she received her January bill. That bill was $305.

"By now, I'm in a panic," said Tucker.

She started the cycle over again: called her plumber to see if there any leaks and reached out to the city.

On February 7, the city conducted a meter efficiency test on Tucker's meter. Those tests suggested the meter was failing, but not in the way you think.

According to the city, Tucker's meter was under-registering, which the city said means more water was passing through the meter than was being recorded.

One week later, the city installed a new water meter and Tucker received her water bill for the month of February. That bill was back to $29, which Tucker said is normal.

News 19 reached out to the Department of Utilities and Engineering. In a statement, the department said: "Because the customer's usage, which was normally very low, was extremely high in December and January and fell back to normal levels in February, this indicates that an event occurred on the property that caused extremely high usage, whatever caused the high usage was corrected, and the usage has since returned to normal."

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Tucker disagrees, saying there hasn't been a leak on her property in December and January, and she just wants the city to do one thing.

"Wipe out those costs that they've sent me. They have not happened. I didn't use the water," she said.