Official: Palm Beach County wrong on water bills

By Lindsay Cohen email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

LAKE WORTH, FL (WFLX) - Erica Lucarelli knew it was more than a leaky pipe when her water bill nearly tripled this summer.

"I thought in my heart that there was really something going on," said Lucarelli, of suburban Lake Worth. "I knew that something would have come out of it, whether it took a couple days, a couple weeks, a couple months."

Now, it appears something has come out of our Fox 29 investigation: An elected state official met with county leaders Wednesday, and, she says, they agreed to look at whether customers were overcharged on their water bills.

"There is no easy way to explain a water bill, first and foremost," said State Rep. Shelley Vana, D - Lantana. "[But] even if you're only off by a couple of dollars, that's a considerable amount of overpayment."

Vana met with officials from Palm Beach County's Water Utilities Department Wednesday, and asked them about the county's new tiered system and surcharges. The new system is one reason customers saw unusually high water bills Vana said; the other is because customers receive a bill for estimated usage one month, and a bill for actual usage the second. The second bill, Vana says, includes charges for usage not billed the first month.

The only problem? Because the second bills' numbers are higher, they are billed at a higher rate.

"I think this will be an ongoing problem, unfortunately, until [the county gets] to the point where they can do actual readings every month, and that costs a lot of money," Vana added.

The state representative used an example of one customer in her district who used 61,000 gallons of water over two months. His first bill was for about 5,000 gallons, and the second for 56,000 gallons.

Vana says she showed the county that if the customer was billed for 30,000 gallons the first month and then 31,000 the second month, he would have paid about $40 less over the two months.

"[For many customers it] will only be a dollar or two, but still you should be paying what you have used," she said.

But don't expect a check in the mail anytime soon, said Palm Beach County Water Utilities spokesman Robert Nelton.

The utility is not doing anything wrong, Nelton said, and, in general, gives credits to people who complain about their bills. Nelton added that the company is working on ways to prevent customer confusion from happening in the future.

Curious if you're being overcharged? To view the county's tiered system and to calculate your water bill, click here: