Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

City stands by high water bills

TAMPA — In response to hundreds of complaints and mounting inquiry, the city stood defiantly by its water-billing system Wednesday, saying leaks accounted for tens of thousands of extra gallons on recent bills.

"We're trying to give you an order of magnitude of what these small leaks can do," Tampa public works administrator Steve Daignault said to reporters while explaining that a running toilet can waste 108,000 gallons per month. "Those are meaningful leaks. These are significant."

Officials also distributed a list of 24 possible reasons for high water bills, which included broken irrigation pipes from recent freezes, overwatering after a dry autumn and 10 varieties of leaks.

As of Wednesday, the city had inspected 31 homes from customers who complained of uncharacteristically high water bills: 27 showed leaks, mostly broken or faulty sprinkler heads; two showed overwatering; and two were inconclusive, according to city data. No inspection has indicated the city incorrectly billed residents, officials said.

But many residents were still disbelieving, some asserting their pipes are free of leaks and others insisting leaks could not have accounted for so much.

"We've had inspectors in and out of the house … and if there was a gallon of water unaccounted for, they would've seen it," said Karen Popp of South Tampa, who is struggling with a $770 water bill as she prepares to move. "I'm not just going to roll over and give them an extra $700."

City inspectors are scheduled to review Popp's system today. If a leak is found and she repairs it, the city will adjust her bill so excess usage is billed at the lowest rate. Tampa water rates are tiered progressively, so as residents use more water, they are charged more per gallon.

Daignault and Tampa water director Brad Baird said three recent spells of freezing weather broke 571 city pipes, and they suspect similar damage was done to residential irrigation systems.

They also said handheld devices require workers to input anomalous readings twice. Then, these irregular readings — about 100 per day — are audited, and in about 10 percent of cases, workers are sent to reread the meters.

Baird said he remembers only one case in the past 25 years when the city was at fault for an abnormally high bill.

The city is scheduled to inspect at least 14 more homes this week, including two in New Tampa that were recently billed for more than 180,000 gallons.

Both of those homeowners, Michael Tucker and Michael O'Malley, said they are confident their systems are free of leaks, particularly any that would waste such large amounts.

"We had our own irrigation people come again today and, yes, in fact, we have nothing wrong," said O'Malley, who faces a $2,700 bill. "I'm not trying to be adversarial in this, I just want some answers."

Jack Nicas can be reached at (813) 226-3401 or jnicas@sptimes.com.

Leak estimates

Leak typeGallons

per minute
Gallons

per month
Slow drip0.14,320
Leaky

flapper
0.2510,800
Sprinkler

system

line leak
143,200
Stuck

faucet
1.564,800
Running

toilet
2.5108,000
Leaking

water pipe
3129,600

Source: Tampa Water Department

City stands by high water bills 01/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 10:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility

    World

    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia

    World

    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]