An Atlanta man received a $30,000 water bill for allegedly using water on a property… without a water line connection.
Jeff Raw, president and CEO of Revive Construction Group, had not yet started construction on a single-family home in Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood when he received a series of tempting invoices from Atlanta Watershed Management.
Rather than let its business sink under the weight of unwarranted fees, Raw requested an adjustment to its bill, but was denied, according to a settlement. Investigation on FOX 5 Atlanta. He then went to the utility company’s appeals board, but that also dashed any hopes he had of getting the bill overturned.
“This is criminal,” Raw said in an email obtained by the news channel. Here’s what happened and how you can avoid drowning in similar financial misery.
1 million gallons of water
Atlanta Watershed Management installed a stand-alone water meter on the problem land on October 4, 2022. At the time, the land was just dirt; Raw hadn’t even started laying the foundation for the house he would eventually build.
One month after the water meter was installed, Revive Construction was billed $8,899 for allegedly using 305,184 gallons of water.
To put this into context, the Environmental Protection Agency says the average American household uses about 300 gallons of water per day, which equates to 9,000 gallons per month, or 296,184 gallons less than Revive Construction is expected to consume on an empty lot.
The mega bills poured in for five months, reaching a shocking total of $29,669.43 for the use of over a million gallons of water, which Raw, of course, called for.
The Atlanta Watershed Management Appeals Board ruled that the water was used, lost (via a leak) or stolen. Raw, who described the appeals board as “a kangaroo court,” said it appeared they were investigating whether he stole the water.
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At some point in the saga, the utility company admitted there was a water leak and corrected Revive Construction’s outstanding balance to a much more reasonable $219.29. But he quickly reversed that decision – believing it to be a mistake – and reinstated the construction company’s $30,000 bill. Raw appealed for this U-turn and lost, despite the support of a senior utility company employee.
“I feel like it’s extortion,” said Raw, who wasn’t the only one to lose his fight. Over an 18-month period, the Fox I-Team found that 80 percent of people who disputed their water bills with Atlanta Watershed Management lost their appeals.
What to do if you receive a weird water bill
If you receive an unusually high water bill, don’t throw your money away: there are ways to check your water usage and dispute any discrepancies.
First, it’s important to check your water meter to make sure it matches what’s listed on your bill. If not, you can use it as proof to help you request a refund or credit on your future water bills.
But if the number on your bill is correct, the next most important step is to check your home for leaks. You can do this by turning off all water sources in your home and then checking your water meter. If the dial is still moving, there may be a leak somewhere – one of the most common culprits being the toilet.
Remember, if you suspect a leak, it is important to act as soon as possible to avoid costly water damage and Home Insurance claim. This would cause more financial hardship on top of your large water bill.
Consider getting help from a plumber to confirm whether or not you have a leak and make the necessary repairs. Throughout this process, be sure to maintain solid documentation – for example, a plumber’s report – that you can use to support your request to adjust your bill.
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This article provides information only and should not be considered advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.