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Columbus family stunned after water bill jumps from $50 to $500

Posted at 11:58 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 23:59:29-05

COLUMBUS — A family baffled and dealing with a surprise, drastic spike in their water bill weeks before Christmas.

Melissa Grimes goes in-person every month to pay her family's water bill, but what she was told this month was something she never expected.

"She asked me, 'Do you want to pay it all?' and I was like, 'Well how much is it?' And she said, '$500 and some change,' and I was like, 'Woah, no, no. That can't be right,'" Grimes said.

A look at their water consumption shows a few months when they family of six used more water than average, but nothing like the 69,000 gallons on their latest bill.

Grimes and Scott McKenzie got a plumber to check out their house for leaks, but he found nothing.

"So we had another plumber come over because something had to have been wrong," Grimes said. "Second plumber comes, thoroughly checks everything. All the toilets, everything outside, everything's fine."

Columbus Utilities executive director Scott Dempke said they made two service calls on the second and sixth of this month and now the water usage is back to normal.

"How is going down? How did it go up? So now, it's normal when before it was crazy, but I've done nothing different," Grimes said.

Dempke said the 69,000 gallons of water came from high consumption in October with about 1.6 gallons of water per minute in 30 days. The Columbus couple said they are skeptical of that explanation because they said they quickly fixed their toilet leak a few months ago.

Now they're locked into a will-pay agreement to cover the high bill.

"I had to do something to keep my water on," Grimes said.

When it's over, they will have paid $606.34, or $103.38 more than the actual bill.

"It's not really helpful at this point, especially spreading it out over a year," McKenzie said.

Columbus City Utilities said they made a robocall to the couple on Oct. 31 to warn them of the high water usage. Grimes said she didn't answer because she was at work.

"Now, I'm paying that, my regular bill and late fees," Grimes said.

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