What to Know
- Ricardo Torres’ April water bill for a 1,500-square-foot home read $180,918.68 plus more than $9,000 in late fees.
- A "final notice" threatened to turn off his water if he didn't pay, and customer service gave him an extra week.
- The utility admitted it was a meter reader error and dropped the bill and the threat to turn off the water.
High water bills are a common complaint, but a Maryland man’s trumped all others: He was charged almost $200,000.
In April, Ricardo Torres received a quarterly water bill for a 1,500-square-foot home charging him $180,918.68, plus more than $9,000 in late fees. The utility company claimed he consumed 1.5 million gallons of water – the equivalent of three Olympic-sized swimming pools -- in three months.
He knew it was a mistake, but trying to convince the utility wasn’t easy.
"I laughed a little," Torres said. "I thought it was clearly absurd, but I knew it had to be a mistake, some sort of glitch or something."
But he wasn't laughing after seeing what came next: A "final notice" threatening to turn off his water if he didn't pay the "amount due."
"I gave them a call and they said they would give me an extra week before they cut off my water," Torres said.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
Drowning in disbelief and worried his bill would be sent to collections, Torres contacted NBC4 Responds. After a call to WSSC, all threats to shut off Torres' water dropped, and the utility apologized.
"It was a large amount," WSSC spokesperson Lyn Riggins said. "It was a wrong amount. It was a meter reader error."
WSSC admitted the customer service response was unacceptable.
"We're going to use that as a teachable moment for the agent involved," Riggins said.
The $189,000 bill was dropped, too, and Torres has a $17 credit.
"I was very surprised," Torres said. "You called me and 2 to 3 hours after, it was all done. I appreciate it very much."
WSSC said each meter reader reads 8,000 meters per month, with a 99.75 percent accuracy rate. The system should have flagged this mistake but unfortunately didn't.