Doris Wayne continues fight against water and sewer bill

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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ELIZABETH, W.Va. (WTAP) - In March we told the story of a local fighting a $1,400 water and sewer bill. As of recently, that resident has filed a formal complaint against the Claywood Park Public Service District and West Virginia Public Commission.

Doris Wayne has been living at the same residence for over 20 years and has never had a bill quite like this. It states that she used about 90,000 gallons of water.

The total cost is more than she makes in a month.

Doris Wayne said, “I’d like for them to tell me, if I used that water, where is it?”

To put the situation into context, of the 10 months leading up to the $1,400 bill, all bills stayed in the 60′s cost-wise, except three. Of the three, one was $51, another was $70, and the other $100.

Since the $1,400 January bill, her bills have dropped significantly, but are still much higher than usual. Think $113 the following month and $163 the next.

Now, she’s fighting February and March’s bills as well.

She said, “They don’t have any reason. They don’t have any explanation except pay it.”

Still, AJ Allen of Claywood Park Public Service District said multiple public service districts looked at the meter, all determining that it was working.

Allen added that, although no leak was detected on Claywood’s first visit to the residence, the leak indicator went on and off on the second visit. It is unclear if Ms. Wayne was notified of the second visit but WTAP has not been able to get a hold of Allen for comment, despite multiple attempts and voicemails.

So far, nothing has qualified for a bill adjustment. The utility company is only responsible for water until the point of the meter.

Susan Small, communication director for the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, explained, “The utility company cannot nor are they responsible to determine what happens to the water after it runs through the meter.”

The situation was later put into the public service commission’s hands as an informal case. Through this, the commission’s engineers swapped out Ms. Wayne’s meter and electronically downloaded data about her water usage. They decided that the bill was accurate.

Again, nothing qualified for a bill adjustment.

Small said, “..., historically, if the customer has repaired the leak and has evidence that the leak has been repaired, the utility company is usually very accommodating in forgiving at least a portion of the bill.”

Ms. Wayne hired plumbers to look for a leak in April and they found none. Although the plumbers were not there when the alleged huge leak occurred, they say it’s impossible for a leak that size to fix itself.

Also, it would be hard to miss.

James Vires with Ed’s Plumbing said, “90,000 gallons is a lot of water and that can cause a lot of damage. Like, if that was inside, it would have ruined all kinds of floor. If it was outside, it would have looked like she had a swamp out in her yard.”

Still the plumbers said, while a hidden leak of this size is extremely unlikely, it isn’t impossible.

Ms. Wayne said there was no sign of leakage before the bill and there hasn’t been a change in her water usage.

Claywood has since sent a cut off notice to Ms. Wayne. This has been postponed since she filed a formal complaint. Ms. Wayne is not using an attorney due to the cost.

WTAP asked Allen if there have been any other instances of customers getting bills over $1,000 in 2020 but has yet to get an answer.

For more context, below is a link to our original story on the situation.

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