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Monday, Dec 18, 2017
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Investigation launched into high Pasco water bills

— County Clerk Paula O’Neil said her office has received complaints from about 150 county water customers who believe they were overcharged by Pasco Utilities.

O’Neil ordered her Inspector General’s office to investigate possible cases over overbilling after a New Port Richey couple received a $3,386 water bill in July.

Louise Gritmon and Gene Foy were charged for using 614,000 gallons of water over an 18-day period in July while their house was vacant. Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker suspended the couple’s bill while the IG investigation is ongoing.

O’Neil wanted to know if this was an isolated case, so she set up a special email account, [email protected], for customers who have unexplained spikes in their water bills. That’s when she was deluged with complaints, and many of those customers wanted to know if they should pay their water bill.

“This is going to take a while, but I’m asking that you release a statement to address the large discrepancies in billing,” she said. “I don’t have authority to say overbilling will be refunded.”

Utilities Director Bruce Kennedy said the department will put disputed charges on hold for customers who are part of the IG investigation. But he’s still confident Foy’s meter, which indicated the house used about 23 gallons per minute for 18-straight days, was accurate. “The meter can easily pass 25 gallons a minute,” he said. “I’ve been in this business over 40 years, and I’ve never seen a meter over-register an active flow.”

He said a lightning strike wouldn’t affect the meter, because it’s fed by PVC pipes. “There are cases of human error — a meter could have been misread, or there could be a billing error,” he said. “That didn’t happen in this case.”

Still, Kennedy said his staff would fully cooperate with the IG investigation.

[email protected]

(813) 371-1852

Twitter @LKinslerTBO

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