GARDEN GROVE (CBSLA) – The Do family lives in a modest single-family home in Orange County.
Their backyard is all artificial turf. Every two months, they get a water bill from the city of Garden Grove. The bill hovers around $80 for a two-month billing cycle.
But in March, they got quite the shock when a bill came in the mail charging them more than $4,000 for 760,000 gallons of water usage.
“We are a family of three, just my wife, myself and my son,” said Luke Do. “We don’t have a swimming pool.”
The meter was installed in 2008. For the lifetime of that meter it logged 650,000 gallons – meaning the Do family is accused of using 100,000 more gallons of water in two months than the home had used over 12 years.
“Put that number in perspective, an average swimming pool holds about 15,000 gallons of water, so we are talking about 50 swimming pools,” he said.
Initially, the city did offer to run tests on the meter, and to replace it. But then Do says “they got the test results back, and there was nothing wrong with the meter and that I am responsible for the entire amount.”
They had a leak detection agency come out and the independent company found no leaks – meaning they are now on the hook for the $4,000 bill.
All the city has agreed to is a “payment plan”, but the family says it’s not enough.
“We are struggling financially like everyone else during this pandemic and now we have to worry about this bill and having to pay for it,” said Do.
He filed a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission, but the regulatory agency wrote back that it doesn’t have jurisdiction over municipal water agencies like Garden Grove.
Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, says the family still has options.
“You can actually go to small claims court, and most of the time if you document and go up the chain of command, you will find someone to help, even if you have to go to the mayor,” said McCourt.
After the city replaced the meter, the Do’s are back to their normal water usage, but the city won’t budge on the bill.
“I feel very helpless because they are a public utility and we have to go through them for water and now, if we don’t pay this bill they can cut us off so we have our hands tied,” Do said.
A city spokesperson told CBSLA’s Kristine Lazar they’ve had the meter tested by the manufacturer and a third party and they have all confirmed the meter was not faulty and the reading was accurate. All they are offering is a payment plan with no late fees.