Mysterious ‘1,000 litre per hour’ water bill spike vexes Richmond Hill resident
'Our backyard would’ve been sopping wet if there was some kind of leak'
March 10, 2020
Ellie Moore knows now her unusually high water bill was not an isolated incident.
It’s been a year and a half since Moore and her husband were slapped with a mysterious water bill for $478 --double their regular amount.
She contacted The Liberal after reading an article in the newspaper (Richmond Hill family’s soaring water bill due to faulty metre), hoping to increase public attention about inexplicable water bills that may be affecting more York residents.
“We gave up. We fought it as hard as we could,” Moore said.
Having gone through five stages of agony, the resident said they had no choice but to bite the bullet and pay in full.
The family did everything in their power, including a dye test for toilet leaking and examining two external hose bibs, Moore recalled.
Unlike the Canale-Parola family --who, due to a faulty metre, reportedly paid their water bills based on the city’s estimates --Moore said she was told her newly installed smart water metre was working just fine.
According to documents Moore provided, the city did not identify a direct cause for the spike in her family's water use during the Moores’ correspondence with Richmond Hill’s revenue services in September 2018.
“A significant consumption event” did take place on June 3 and 4, when the water metre recorded consumption of about 1,000 litres per hour for a few hours at their property, the email reads.
Staff also suggested a possible malfunction in a water filter system or underground sprinkler, which they said was the responsibility of the property owner.
“Our backyard would’ve been sopping wet if there was some kind of leak,” Moore said. “And we were home on those two days! We think there is some kind error in the reading.”
The city provides adjustments in the event of a billing error, according to the water and wastewater bylaw No. 94-11.
But the Moores have not heard from the city again, after attempting to raise concerns about the water metre and ask for a $50 deduction as a “good will gesture,” the resident said.
Moore noted the hike on water consumption occurred two billing periods after the water metre was changed on Sept. 14, 2017 as part of the city's water metre replacement program.
First approved by council in October 2012, the metre replacement program started in August 2013. And, according to the city, approximately 95 per cent of residential installations were upgraded as of March 2020.
Moore said she expected the water bill to be slightly higher after the installation of the new metre, but it shouldn’t have been that much of a difference.
Water consumption went back to normal after the high bill, she added.
The rest of the two-person household’s water bills from 2018 to 2019 showed an average of about $250 per bill.
“It was a one-off,” Moore said. “Although we continue to believe there had to have been a glitch in our metre, we were left to the mercy of the town.”
“Richmond Hill conducts their billing solely based on the flow of water through a sealed metre,” city spokesperson Lynn Chan said, noting the meters are “simple” but “extremely reliable” technology.
In 2019, Richmond Hill received about 750 calls about high water bills and 500 calls about water meters, according to the city.
That is less than one per cent of all bills issued that year.
City statistics show Richmond Hill has about 50,000 residential water accounts, billed four times per year --for a total of 200,000 bills per year.
“Maybe it happened and people just let it go. But it really bothers me, because clearly it was not a huge amount consumed by us,” Moore said.
If residents have questions about their water accounts, bills or meters, the city suggests they contact Access Richmond Hill by phone at 905-771-8800 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.If Access Richmond Hill is unable to provide a resolution, the inquiry will be sent to the water billing team in the revenue services, Chan wrote.