Water bill nightmare in Apollo Beach - WFLA News Channel 8

Water bill nightmare in Apollo Beach

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Moving into a brand new home, with a new lawn, in Apollo Beach, Tom Nelson , expected his water bill to be about $75. Imagine his surprise when his first month's water bill was $1089.67. "I was in complete shock went into a panic thinking my water is going to be shut off," said Nelson.

He called the builder , who sent a plumber and the sprinkler installer to check for leaks but they didn't find any.  "I thought there could be a severe leak underground, but it said we used 144,000 gallons of water in one month that would have washed my whole house away," said Nelson.

To get an idea of how much water 144,000 gallons is, it's enough to fill 14 average sized swimming pools.  That's a lot of water for three adults and a 6 month old baby in a home with new energy efficient appliances and a sprinkler system set to water only twice a week.

The next bill came in at $530.67. Nelson put locks on his outside water spigots and called 8 On Your Side for help.  Then Nelson learned he's not the only one on the block with a high water bill. Next door neighbor Marla Murphy just moved in January 4th. Her first bill was $741.39. "I about fell out of my chair. I didn't know what to think," said Murphy.  She had some small sprinkler leaks repaired, but her meter shows she's still on track to use the same amount.

I took their questions Hillsborough County Water Dept. director, John Lyons. He admits they inadvertently charged the Nelson's for a month's worth of the builder's water bill. "We made an error...quite honest with you..on the billing. When the meter and the account was switched over from the builder to the homeowner,we go out and do a meter read on that and on the Nelson's, we made a mistake," said Lyons.  He agreed to give the Nelson's a $620 credit. But he found no error in the Murphy's meter reading.

That left both homeowners with high monthly water bills of more than $500. Lyons said those high bills can be attributed to watering their new lawns. Irrigation systems can use up to 20 gallons of water per minute, and it adds up quickly on Hillsborough county's tiered water billing system.

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