Enmax customers continue to express outrage and frustration over high water bills
Published Tuesday, August 22, 2017 6:12AM MDT Last Updated Tuesday, August 22, 2017 7:01PM MDT
A CTV News story has opened the floodgates on city water bill complaints and has also found there is no agency overseeing complaints about those Enmax bills.
However, Enmax says it will be looking into the issue that led to ultra-high bills for a number of customers.
On August 16, Carly Lalonde told CTV Calgary that her family’s water usage was recorded at 744 cubic metres, 20 times her average family usage.
An investigation revealed that there were no leaks on the property and no logical reasoning for where the water could have gone.
However, the city found that Lalonde’s water meter was working fine so ENMAX said the bill would stay in place.
Now, the utility company says it has canceled Lalonde’s bill and will proceed with a further investigation into the issue.
Since Lalonde’s story came out, a number of other families say they are facing the same situation.
Taghrid El-Rafih was handed a $2,400 water bill for March and April, a surprise considering she sees a bill of about $100 per month.
“It’s really, really frustrating like, what do I do? I don’t want it to go to collections. We’ve never had anything like that; we pay our bills on time and he said that had been taken into consideration, so I’m stuck.”
Verginia Ghobrial has a similar story.
She received a $3,800.00 water bill in May and neither city inspectors nor plumbers could explain where all the water could have gone and because the city’s tests showed her water meter was working fine; Enmax denied any billing problems.
“You just get like, oh my God, someone just put their hands in my pocket and stole money from me and there’s nothing I can do about it,” says Ghobrial . “They just close the door on you.”
Single mother Rachel Jerome also got hit with a $1,400.00 mystery water bill in April which she says is more than what she makes in a month for water she never used.
“They didn’t make me feel like I had any other option than to pay the bill,” says Jerome.
Five Calgarians with nearly identical stories about their February to April water bills skyrocketing from $100.00 per month into the thousands and back down with no logical explanation have spoken out this week.
Enmax says that doesn’t show a pattern or a problem.
“I have certainly asked that we look in this because it does strike me that these things are very strange,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “A toilet leak is not going to lead to this type of problem and we need to make sure that we’re treating these particular rate payers fairly and that we don’t have a bigger problem in the system.”
A joint statement from the city and Enmax maintained their bills are correct though they didn’t address these five customers ‘issues.
“We take great care to ensure our metering and billing systems are accurate. Customers are often surprised by how much water can be used in a month. A leaky toilet can use up to 22 litres of water per minute which can add up to $3,000.00 a month and leaks can be temporary in nature and hard to detect.”
If $3,000.00 sounds a bit pricey; move to Vancouver where its city water service website says a leaky toilet can cost you $750.00 per year.
These customers went up the Enmax chain with their complaints as high as they could and sometimes once you reach the top of Enmax, occasionally complaints will be referred to city water services management but that’s it because there is no government body where you can appeal your water bill.
The province says the Utilities Consumer Advocate’s office only handles gas and electricity complaints.
The Alberta Utilities Commission says under the governing legislation, it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the City of Calgary water services or Enmax with respect to billing or meter complaints.
However, it would review any complaint it receives to see if there are any grounds upon which it may have jurisdiction, though it has never done so with respect to Enmax’s water billing service.
(With files from Lea Williams-Doherty)