Among the issues to arise in the first week following the Jan. 3 closing of the sale of the Falls Church water system to Fairfax County were multiple expressions of concern by City residents that their fourth-quarter water bills had ballooned and that they were unable to get explanations because the City’s water utility phone line was closed.
The complaints of sudden increases in the water bills fell on deaf ears as the City’s phone line was closed, and people were told to call a Fairfax Water Authority number that only had a recording, they said.
However, Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields reported at Monday’s City Council meeting that despite some citizen reports on local websites, no significant anomalies in the water bills sent out in December has been found.
“Nothing has indicated any problem,” he said, adding that there has also not been an unusual volume of calls from citizens questioning their bills.
Still, he did announce that a phone line at City Hall dedicated to fielding questions about such matters has been opened up at (703) 248-5108.
With the completion of the sale of the F.C. water system to Fairfax County on Jan. 3, Shields said, the City’s office to handle customer queries was closed and customers urged to call the county. However, because of customer concerns in the transition it was decided to reopen a local phone line.
Shields also said a final bill from Falls Church based on meter readings as of Jan. 3 will be sent out later this month. He said that December bills were for three months that included September, a very dry month that resulted in unusually high levels of water use.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the F.C. City Manager’s office Monday confirmed that the matter had been researched. “The City has looked into the overall consumption to see if there is anything unusual (in the billing—ed.). Collectively, water consumption for the Sept.-Oct.-Nov. quarter was higher (+3.4 percent) relative to the same period in 2012; this is not surprising, as we had a drier-than-normal Aug. and Sept. 2013 and a wetter than normal Sept. 2012.”
The statement added that, “Customer service has walked a number of customers through their bill on the phone and the trend has been that either a) the consumption is normal, but their bill is larger than normal because they had a past due balance from a prior bill, b) they remember they actually did water the lawn quite a bit back in the early fall, or c) they find that they had a leaking toilet or faucet down in the basement of which they weren’t aware.”
Still, one citizen reported on the Our Common Place website that her bill had doubled in the fourth quarter, and when she inquired, the same was true for a number of her friends. Also, resident Al Eisele, in a letter to the editor to the News-Press, complained that his bill showed his water use had almost doubled in the fourth quarter from 8,000 gallons to 15,000.