BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Birmingham Water Works Wednesday defended its billing practices amid new questions about the accuracy of some customers’ bills.
The system held a meter-reading demonstration Wednesday after our report that dozens of customers have reported unusually high bills for a month or two, with no apparent reason including leaks or over-watering.
“Out of 2.5 million meter reads a year by a person, you’re liable to have some misreads or mistakes,” said BWWB spokesperson Rick Jackson. “What I’m saying to you is our billing system is adequate, our billing system is adequate. Sometimes there have been cases where we’ve misread your meter. We’re not saying we’re going to be perfect every time we read your meter, but we are not having an issue with our billing system. The system itself has never calculated a bill wrong, that’s what I’m saying with confidence today. "
Pressed for how the system could be so sure, Jackson replied “Because we have controls in place that we’ve had as far as checking behind those bills. There are issues on an individual basis and we address them as they come in, there’s not a collective problem here.”
We asked Jackson what he would say to customers who’ve gotten unusually high bills and have checked for leaks, haven’t watered their lawns, or had a running toilet or unusual activity. “What I’m saying is there is always a possibility for human error, but we have to look at it on a case by case basis," Jackson replied. "I can’t say just because you’ve had 10, 20 or even 100 customers come forward and say my bill is high that there’s a problem with adequacy on the Water Works side.”
Jackson also accused the media of over-hyping customer concerns. “If you see something sensationalized in the media, it’s going to cause more people to come forward,” Jackson said. “We are a utility company, nobody wants to pay a higher utility bill.”