Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Massive water bill curbed

Published:Saturday | October 22, 2016 | 10:00 AMRyon Jones
Olive Henry explained to the ‘Gleaner’ news team about a high water bill she got for more than $175,000.

Olive Henry's mood has changed from one of shock to rejoicing after the National Water Commission (NWC) adjusted her June bill from $175,102.34 to $9,161.80.

Henry, who is the landlord for the premises in question at Manley Mews in St Andrew, had been faced with this ongoing issue for several weeks before it was highlighted in The Sunday Gleaner last month.

The frustrated customer thought the bill was generated in error as she had never received a bill of that magnitude, plus the premises was unoccupied as construction work was being carried out. However, when she initially queried the bill at the NWC's head office on Marescaux Road in the Corporate Area, she was told that it was correct.

Henry challenged the NWC's claim that there must be a massive leak at the premises by paying a plumbing company $6,500 to check the pipes. But Henry's nightmare was finally ended last week when she called the company and was told that the bill had been reduced by 95 per cent.

GIVE GOD THANKS

"I called them (NWC) and they said yes, they have reduced it, but I told them that I wanted something to be sure about it, so I went to Water Commission and when I went there, they said yes, the bill was wiped off," Henry told The Gleaner.

"I had to just give God thanks. People probably thought that I was mad because I was just shouting 'Thank you Jesus!' because I knew He would have come through.

Even when I left there (NWC head office) and I was walking to Cross Roads, people were just turning around and looking at me because I was shouting 'Thank you Jesus! You've come through for me again!'"

In a written confirmation of the adjustment received by Henry in the mail on Friday, the vice-president of Divisional Operations East at the NWC, Micheal Dunn, wrote:

"Scheduled reading obtained on July 4, 2016 (1345 m3) indicated that your consumption was significantly higher than normal. Consequently, our representative was asked to conduct a check at the property in an effort to ascertain the possible cause for the high consumption. The visit was made on July 8, 2016; the reading of 1345 m3 was confirmed and no movement was detected on the meter. We were unable to inspect the fixtures and fitting as the occupants were out.

A further check was done on August 8, 2016 and the meter reading recorded was the same (1345 m3)."

The letter further stated that in accordance with the NWC's objective to replace meters that are over a specified age, the meter was changed.

"Given the fact that the meter was replaced before the requested test was done, and in the interest of maintaining our good customer relations, the National Water Commission has reviewed the charges applied for July and an amount of $164,054.17 credited to the account. The amended balance of $9,161.80 is to be settled by October 14, 2016."

REVISED CHARGES

Henry said she has since paid the revised amount and has received her October bill, which is back to normal with total current charges coming up to $828.46.

"I am grateful to The Sunday Gleaner, which published it, because I had been back and forth for weeks and was not getting any response," Henry said. "Sometimes the company needs to look at people's situation rather than just telling them to pay, pay, pay."

But according to Commu-nications Manager at the NWC Charles Buchanan, the company does launch investigations when there are drastic movements in customer's bills, and this is sometimes done even without persons lodging complaints.

"We do hundreds of thousands of bills, and we have built into our process mechanisms for investigations, double checking and querying particular bills that come out," Buchanan said. "I think our error rate is somewhere less than one per cent and those are investigated as far as the normal course of operations.

"To make a query or ask for an investigation, that's entirely within their (customer's) right."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com