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Iowa homeowner shocked after receiving a $3,000 water bill

"It was quite a shock

By Todd Magel

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    DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) — You may want to take a close look at your Des Moines water bill. One customer just opened a bill for more than $3,000 when he normally pays about $180 a month.

“It was quite a shock,” said Dan Trerotola of Des Moines.

Trerotola just got the huge water bill. It would have been a bigger shock than normal if the Des Moines Water Works hadn’t called him with a warning first.

“She broke the news, that it was over $3,000 which wasn’t the Christmas present that I was expecting from the water department,” Trerotola said with a laugh.

He didn’t pay too much attention when his water bills arrived, starting 19 months ago, as estimates. The word estimate is printed on the bill and there is another sentence asking him to call for repairs. But his estimated bill was about the same as his previous water bill, so he didn’t think much of it.

“I think like most consumers, we get a bill and we kind of look at, ‘oh, OK, it’s within $5 or $10 of what I normally pay. You’re not going to question it,” Trerotola said.

He assumes there might be a leak in his Des Moines triplex, but never imagined it would result in a giant water bill. The broken meter didn’t pick up on the increased usage until it was fixed last month.

“It kind of makes you wonder what’s going on out there with these estimates and I feel bad for other consumers, they better look at their bill,” Trerotola said.

“We never like bills to be surprising to any customer,” said Laura Sarcone with the Des Moines Water Works.

Sarcone says about 5,000 of its 90,000 customers are getting the estimated bills. That’s five times the usual number. Most of the time batteries die in the remote and the water works has had to delay repairs.

“Through COVID, we weren’t going into homes and doing in-home service,” Sarcone said.

The remote readers also use computer chips, which are hard to find these days.

“We have some catch-up work to do due to multiple factors, COVID and supply chain issues. So we are really trying to aggressively attack this estimated account,” Sarcone said.

Sarcone says the lesson is to read your bill. A lesson Trerotola is learning the hard way.

“For people out there getting bills with estimate on them, you’d better follow up on it,” Treotola said.

Water works is offering customers a payment plan if their bills are much larger than normal.

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