Statement from Clay Duffie, General Manager, Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) regarding recent complaints of higher bills from some customers:
October 8, 2019
I have read most of the posts on Nextdoor and sense the frustration of those of you that have been shocked by your high water bills this summer, heck, my water bill tripled in July. I understand how getting a high bill you did not expect can make you feel out of control with no recourse.
Please remember this has been some of the driest months along with record-breaking temperatures, even in October. We are still 6 inches of rain below normal for the year. Our staff understands the concerns being shared about higher-than-normal bills and are here to help as much as possible.
Every new Sensus meter used by MPW underwent significant testing before installation, and our system continuously checks their performance. The meters meet all American Water Works Association standards for accuracy. I know it is easy to say the meter is wrong. However, we are confident the meters and the data they provide are accurate, maybe not perfect, because no system is perfect, but close.
Water must flow through the meter for it to be charged to the customer. This means customers are using water, either through direct use or an unknown use like a leak. Often, we see customers are irrigating more than they realize. In some instances, our employees even helped customers find a hose left running in the backyard.
When a customer contacts us about a high bill, our Customer Service staff finds it is almost always related to either the customer’s increase in outdoor and irrigation use, understandably due to recent drought conditions and extraordinary hot weather or a leak in their plumbing. Toilets are notorious for silent leaks.
MPW rates are very competitive below 9,000 gallons per month. We have a tiered system for water rates to promote conservation in order to help protect our groundwater supply. Those who use more water pay higher rates in what is called the excessive use charge.
When a customer receives a higher-than-normal bill, the customer is often charged the higher rate tier(s), sometimes for the first time, which can add up to a shocking bill. Our staff can help explain how those excessive charges are applied. We also can help customers with payment arrangements, and there are Customer Care funds available for those facing financial hardships.
We do have reports such as broken pipes, continuous consumption and high bill alerts. We try to notify customers when they appear on these reports. Our staff calls or emails between 50 to 100 customers each week, which is a currently a manual process. Please remember no alert system is perfect. We are working toward the implementation of a new self-service data system known as Water Smart, which will give customers the ability to set their own usage alerts and monitor their water accounts in near real time.
We anticipate that the new Water Smart Portal will be ready for customers in the first quarter of 2020.
In the meantime, let’s hope for some rain and cooler weather and if anyone has a question, you can call me directly at 843.884.9626.