A bill for $4,000 right before the holidays is not exactly what Dawn Pelligrino was expecting, but it’s what she got.
Pelligrino has lived in the same Connecticut home since 2005, but never realized that she had been receiving only estimated bills for her water usage, due to the fact that she had an old meter reading device. And, as a mother of two, she says she does use a lot of water, between doing laundry and dishes and using the sprinkler system. But for the nine years she and her family have lived in their home, Pelligrino has been paying bills that were mere estimates, rather than a true reflection of her water usage, and she never knew it.
“Never in the nine years did I get a letter in the mail saying you have an old meter we need to change it,” Pelligrino said. “Never did anyone come to my door, nothing. No one had ever made an attempt to change that meter.”
No one had ever made an attempt, that is, until Pelligrino went to pay her water bill in person, and a water department employee noted that Pelligrino had an old device. The employee arranged to have the old meter reading device replaced. A crew from the water department came out and replaced the device in Pelligrino’s basement — she didn’t even know where the device was located.
A month later, Pelligrino received her water bill, and it was for over $4,000.
“It’s horrific,” Pelligrino said. “It is. I don’t even know how people can afford this.”
The local water department says that once a new meter is placed in a home, it can tell how much water usage the homeowner has used since the last reading of the meter, which is what happened in Pelligrino’s case. For nine years, she has been using more water than the estimated bill, and is now responsible for nearly a decade worth of water usage.
The water department has declined on-camera interviews, but did speak with the local Eyewitness News over the phone. They explained that they do their best to avoid situations like Pelligrino’s because they are aware of how problematic it can be, and so they reach out to customers by putting all of the information about bill estimations on their website as well as on the bills themselves.
The word “estimation” appears in large print on the bill, right below the bill summary. The exact statement reads, “Your bill has been estimated one or more times. You should contact MDC for an actual reading to prevent errors and hardships.”
Pelligrino, however, maintains that she should have been notified about the issue nine years ago.
“They knew in April 2005 when they came out here and did the final indoor reading when it switched owners of the home,” she said. “They knew. But they never switched it.”
Pelligrino worked out a three-year payment plan with her local water department to pay what she owes — fortunately at no interest.
But she’s also filing complaints with the attorney general’s office and Department of Consumer Protection. She wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
This isn’t the first time a shockingly high bill has made headlines. Read about the man who was completely stunned over his restaurant bill for nearly $5,000 because of an expensive misinterpretation with his waitress over pricing here.
[Image via WFSB.com]