Whopping Water Bills

Talk about shocking, two Colorado Springs residents say they flipped when they got their water bills. They thought there had to be a mistake. Their meters showed they had used not hundreds or even thousands, but hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.

That's when they turned to Call for Action.

The toilet is where Virginia Hagberg wanted to put her $821 water bill when she got it from Colorado Springs Utilities. Her meter showed her monthly water consumption... close to 110,000 gallons of water.

She couldn't believe it. She says she and her tiny dog Sophie are the only ones who live here and they were gone part of the month.

Virginia says, "You know we've got a problem here. I didn't use that much water!"

Ivan Rathbun says he too was stunned when he got his water bill. It was more than $1,000. He's the only one who lives in his small northside home.

Ivan's bill showed he had consumed more than 135,000 gallons of water even though he was gone on a hunting trip. Experts tell me that's enough to fill two swimming pools full of water.

Ivan says, "They said I used a thousand dollars worth of water in about five days and there's no sign of a leak anywhere."

Both say they typically pay less than $20 a month for water.
When they complained Utilities workers followed standard procedure ... removing the old meters to check them and replacing them with new ones.

Utilities workers say they found nothing wrong with the old meters so they also checked the customers' properties, but again a mystery... they couldn't find any obvious leaks.

Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman Steve Berry says that's not unusual. "It really is a situation where where you can have something as simple as a flap on a toilet, the toilet mechanism on the bowl not functioning correctly, and you can lose a considerable amount of water in a short amount of time."

Nevertheless, after our calls Ivan's bill was forgiven and Virginia's was paid for with help from Silver Key, the local non-profit for seniors, and Colorado Springs Utilities Cope funds.

Still, Berry's concerned for both of them. "We think they either had a leak or have an intermittent leak that's going to crop up again."

We didn't want Virginia and Ivan to have lingering questions so we called John Davis, the owner of American Leak Detection in Colorado Springs. He graciously agreed to use his state of the art equipment to examine Virginia's and Ivan's homes for free.

Davis says, "If this was a leak underground, you would hear this sound and even penetration of the slab." Davis concludes if there was a leak before, he couldn't find any evidence of one now in either home.
"This new meter looks like it's accurate and working properly and there isn't a leak at this time."

No one wants to be in the same boat as Ivan or Virginia. Here's what we learned.

-You should periodically have the water sources in your home checked, especially the toilets.
-Toilets are notorious for leaking a lot of water which you may not see... since it goes straight down your wastewater pipes.
-If you're going to be gone a few days... Colorado Springs Utilities says feel free to turn off the water valve inside your home.
-If you're gone for an extended length of time call (719) 448-4800 and a Utilities worker will come out and shut off water to your home from the outside.

A number of companies sell leak detection devices. These actually close off the shut-off valve and cost upwards of a hundred dollars. Bottom line, you are responsible for water usage whether you consumed it or unknowingly sent it trickling down the drain.


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