I am facing a one-month water bill for $1,800 on a vacant house.
It's the result of winter freezes that broke -- not my pipes -- but
the Water Company meter installed in my basement. I'm hoping that
someone here has seen (or, hopefully not, experienced) a similar
catastrophe and can tell me how the issue was resolved.
Background: I live in California. When my mother passed away two
years ago, she left me our first family home, a small two-bedroom
cottage in New England. I visited the house last summer and, when I
left, closed all the valves on water pipes leading from the meter in
my basement to other parts of the house.
Late this spring, I received an emergency call from the Water Company.
The caller said my most recent meter reading was very high, and a
supervisor who went to check my (vacant) house heard water running
inside. He shut down the street supply and told his company to notify
me in California.
I called a next-door neighbor who had the key to my place; and he went
inside with the Water Company supervisor to take a look. In the
basement where the water meter was mounted (an underground,
cinder-block constructed partial basement about 15 x 25'), there was
about a half-inch of standing water. The neighbor, the Water Company
supervisor, and a handyman I hired to vacuum out the water, all say
they saw no signs that the basement had been flooded above that 1/2"
Despite this, the Water Company says my vacant house used 385,000
gallons of water in the month prior to the leak discovery. The rep
says a "freeze plate" on the water meter broke, and that was the
source of my $1,800 leak.
This leads to several questions that I hope anyone who's read this far
can help me with.
Is it possible for 385,000 gallons of water, in an 15 x 25' chamber
with =no= history of dampness from the outside, to simply disappear?
(Again, there were no water-marks on the walls, peeled stickers at
about 9" high on a floor-mounted furnace near the water meter, or
anything else to indicate flooding above the 1/2" level that everyone
Is 385,000 gallons even reasonable for the flow expected from a broken
water meter "freeze plate" in a month's time?
And, if anyone has been in this position before, is the Water Company
on solid ground in charging me for a spill that came from a failure in
their own equipment? (If I hadn't shut off the valves coming out of
the meter, and/or my own pipes had broken, I'd feel differently about
I have put these questions, in a gentlemanly way, to the Water
Company. The rep now has agreed to send the meter out for
"verification" -- to see whether it produced correct readings for the
amount of water I'm being charged for. But I'm told that if the meter
checks out correctly, there's no further avenue for appeal.
Any conclusions, suggestions, condolences?