By Stacie Schaible
New Tampa resident Vicki Huggins said her December water bill was $442, three times higher than normal.
“There’s just no way,” she said.
Huggins, who lives in the Grand Hampton subdivision, saw a similar pattern with her neighbors.
Huggins and other Tampa residents contacted News Channel 8 and TBO.com after a story Monday about higher water bills received by residents in the Dana Shores area. Some residents also complained about the city water department’s response to their complaints.
Some Dana Shores residents said their water bills usually are less than $100 but have doubled, tripled and, in some cases, quadrupled. Homeowner Colleen Quinn-Adams collected copies of her neighbors’ water bills; 17 received higher bills at the end of 2010.
Quinn-Adams said she found a $350 December bill for a home that had been vacant since August.
The Tampa Water Department said it was investigating, but a spokesman said it will require going to each house to determine any problems.
Huggins’ husband dug up their yard to show the water department there were no leaks.
The department changed Huggins’ meter and installed an analog recorder to further monitor water usage.
“They’re saying maybe you have a leak that isn’t apparent to you during normal waking hours. Maybe something is going on in your house at night while you are sleep,” she said.
She said she believes there is a systemic problem because the many high bills are too coincidental.
“How could there be a problem on my neighbor’s property to the left of me, to the right of me and down the street and four blocks over?” she asked.
That’s the argument made by residents in Dana Shores.
“The answers we’ve received is, ‘It’s something with your residence, a leak, or you’re using too much or a sprinkler head,’ ” Quinn-Adams said.
The water department reread 17 meters in Dana Shores, and the numbers appeared accurate.
“I pulled a history on every single one of the accounts … and in most cases, they showed a pattern of spikes in the past. Not quite as high as this time, but they have shown fluctuations in consumption at different times of the year, which would indicate their usage pattern changes depending on conditions,” department spokesman Eli Franco said.
“We did one investigation (last Tuesday) morning (in Dana Shores), and what we found was the customer potentially has some leaks inside their house, which we were able to point out to them by the spinning of the meter, and we found some broken sprinkler heads, which indicate when they’re irrigating they’re wasting water as well,” Franco said.
Residents who received higher-than-normal bills can request an adjustment by the department. According to the department, bills can be adjusted based on a resident’s yearly average.