Council Members, Customers Demand Investigation Into High Water Bills Due To Meter Reader Inaccuracies

Councilman David G. Greenfield (center) listens as Brooklyn resident Mordechai Lev discusses his issues with inaccurate water bills on Monday at City Hall.

The following is a press release from the office of Councilman David Greenfield:

Council Members and Customers Demand Investigation into High Water Bills Due to Meter Reader Inaccuracies

New York, NY – Councilman David G. Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) was joined on the steps of City Hall today by six of his Council colleagues or their representatives and New York City water customers to demand an immediate investigation into issues with water bills caused by inaccuracies with recently-installed automated meter readers (AMRs) in many homes and businesses.

In some cases, customers have received bills that are two or three times higher than they were before the city began installing these AMRs in 2009 as part of a $250 million project. Other cities that recently installed AMRs have experienced major problems with the technology, leading to massive audits and some customer refunds. Greenfield, his Council colleagues and impacted customers are asking the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to immediately conduct an investigation into the meters and questionable bills and to thoroughly explain billing spikes and irregularities to customers.

“The complaints I have been hearing from residents and business owners regarding their water bills are shocking and need to be investigated immediately. We need to be sure that this technology is reliable and that customers are not being overcharged. I urge the DEP to take these complaints seriously and look into this matter so that the public can be confident that the bills they receive are accurate. I thank my colleagues and constituents for joining me today, and look forward to resolving these issues with the DEP,” said Greenfield.

“I am calling on the Commissioner to improve the service we provide today, and for the long term, in giving our customers an updated metering and billing system and a re-energized and responsive customer service experience. It is unacceptable that a disproportionate amount of New York City residents are having their bills doubled due to a faulty water reading system,” said Councilman Ruben Wills.

“For far too long homeowners have been suffering in silence because they could not get their water bills adjusted when they knew they were inaccurate. I am proud to stand here with Council Member Greenfield demanding that the Department of Environmental Protection create a methodology that will solve this problem,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie.

“Homeowners and co-op owners in Queens are getting soaked by these outrageous water bills,” said Councilman Mark S. Weprin.

“This problem is falling on deaf ears, despite many cases of homeowners seeing their rates jump substantially immediately after the meter was installed. This is a systemic problem and not just cases of isolated glitches, and represents a backdoor tax on residents. My thanks go out to Councilman Greenfield for speaking out on this issue today,” said Councilman Dan Halloran.

“The DEP must immediately identify the cause of the overbillings and suspend billing and collection until the problems are corrected. Our community’s homeowners and businesses simply can’t afford to pay for the city’s mistakes anymore,” said Councilman Lew Fidler.

“Ever since the digital water meters were installed we’ve received calls from constituents whose water bills suddenly skyrocketed for absolutely no reason. There needs to be some sort of recourse for these people to fight the bills they feel are unfounded. Taxpayers have a right to question these charges,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile.

“These meters are unquestionably producing suspect readings that need to be investigated immediately. Like many of my neighbors, the new bills show my family using water in amounts far in excess of what is actually taking place in our home, and the city urgently needs to get to the bottom of this situation. In addition, the process to determine if we had a leak was frustrating and onerous. I am relieved that Councilman Greenfield is fighting on our behalf, and I am hopeful that he can help get some answers on this issue,” said Kensington resident Mordechai Lev, who was overbilled by approximately 400% after his new meter was installed.

“After I received a bill that was much higher than ever before, I was told only that all charges were valid after I requested the city review my case. We need real answers concerning this problem before more residents receive incorrect bills, especially since we don’t know how many other people are impacted by this. My thanks to Councilman Greenfield for demanding that the city address this problem instead of simply insisting that its meters are functioning correctly,” said Borough Park resident Toby Schwartz, whose bills tripled as a result of her new water meter.

“This issue has caused me and my family much frustration as we tried to get answers from the city. I am pleased that this ongoing problem is getting the attention it needs, and I am hopeful that as a result of Councilman Greenfield’s efforts, we will finally get to the bottom of this. The city needs to take these concerns and complaints regarding water bills seriously so that the public is assured the meters are functioning correctly,” said Borough Park resident Joseph Reichberg, whose bill spiked to $2,800 according to the new meter.

In some cases, residents have received much higher bills as a result of the AMR despite having fewer children now living at home. In other cases, homeowners have been charged for high levels of water usage overnight, during Shabbos when less water is generally used or while the family was on vacation. To compound the problem, many customers are simply told that the higher bills are due to more accurate meter readers and have their appeals rejected without further explanation or proof from the DEP. As a result, Greenfield and his colleagues are demanding that the city thoroughly investigate the technology behind these meters and the bills produced and look into all cases of potential overcharging. In addition, a better process for appealing high bills is needed to instill public confidence in this system, assuming it first is proven accurate.

“We need to act now to restore public trust in these meters before more are installed and the problem is compounded for the city. I hope DEP officials hear our message today and act now,” added Greenfield.