Birmingham Water Works responds to complaints about incorrect, double bills
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re on your side getting answers for Birmingham Waterworks customers who said they were receiving double bills and disconnection notices, even though they hadn’t missed a payment.
Birmingham Water Works assured WBRC they had no plans of disconnecting anyone’s service impacted by the issue because it was another problem created by the pandemic.
Clifford Higginbotham lived in Warrior and said something wasn’t clean in the water.
He said he and several neighbors had gotten two Birmingham water works bills within days of each other for different amounts. One of Higginbotham’s bills was for $162; the other bill was for $264.56. In addition to facing two bills due at the same time, Higginbotham said he was being overcharged.
“The bill said 18 cubic feet from December 15 to January 18, which is about 8,000 gallons of water. So, I go outside, pop the cover off the meter, and lo and behold my reading is actually about 12 to 13 cubic feet less than they said for the month,” Higginbotham explained.
Higginbotham said he confronted customer service with the correct water consumption and got this answer.
“The woman at the waterworks tells us that they are just estimating bills right now because they don’t have enough employees to read meters,” he said.
We took Higginbotham, and the dozens of other complaints we received about the issue to BWWB General Manager, Michael Johnson.
“We experienced a significant spike in COVID cases,” Johnson explained.
Johnson said several job vacancies also contributed to a staffing shortage which put the organization behind nearly two weeks on reading meters, if they got to them at all.
“We fell behind in our meter reading. We are about 10 days behind. We check 10,000 meters a day and send out more than 200,000 bills per month. So, when you fall behind like that it’s a significant challenge to catch up,” Johnson said.
Johnson said BWWB sent out a press release in January alerting customers that they were behind and that they would be rectifying the situation in the first few months of the new year.
Johnson explained customers were getting double billed for various amounts because the company couldn’t send bills out in December.
“Customers will not be charged more than what their consumption would normally be. We did have to estimate some bills, but we have a way of making sure that when we actually read the meter, we either credit the customer’s account or in some cases we may have estimated low and will put that on the customer’s bill as well,” Johnson said.
Higginbotham said he understood staffing shortages and offered a solution.
“I’m not above going out here once a month and sending them a picture of my water meter. I don’t mind it takes three minutes to do. It gets them an accurate reading and saves me some money,” he said.
Higginbotham said he knows his meter hadn’t been checked because it was covered in mud. However, after speaking with WBRC, he says he went back out to check the meter and it appeared BWWB has recently been there because the meter had been cleaned off.
Birmingham Water Works told WBRC they hoped to be back to reading meters regularly by the end of March.
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