By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Los Angeles church is pushing back after getting charged for a massive water bill they say is inaccurate.

Prince of Peace, a small Lutheran church in the Northridge community, said its bill from last spring when it was closed due to stay-at-home orders is over $6,000 — 60 times their normal amount.

The small congregation said they’re now struggling to pay it back.

“It’s really stressing us out!” said Pastor Chuck Bunnell. “I have never heard of a bill like this and it doesn’t make sense.”

The church’s bill typically hovers around $100 a month, but the DWP estimates they used 699 hundred cubic feet (HCF) from April 3 to May 4.

“According to the DWP’s calculation, it is about 520,000 gallons of water, which is enough to fill 50 swimming pools,” said parishioner Dale Frederick.

Frederick is head of the church’s property committee and he showed CBS 2 the church’s water usage history.

The month before and after the $6,000-plus bill, Prince of Peace’s records show that it used 24 and 28 HCF, respectively.

Church officials hired an independent plumber to check if there was a big leakage that caused the bill to go up so high, but only a small leak was found.

The DWP came out to the church to check for leaks and said none was found. They also responded to the church’s appeal of the bill saying in a letter that “the meter was working properly” and “the reading” showing how much water they used “is correct.”

“Our financial secretary spent six hours on hold trying to talk to them and the bottom line was that there was no way they could help us,” said Pastor Bunnell.

The DWP is not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, so the church said they didn’t have many options to help address this issue.

“We don’t need this kind of expense at this point. No one does, particularly when it doesn’t make sense,” Bunnell said.

District 12 Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee’s office said it is investigating the bill dispute.

Meanwhile, the DWP stands by its billing but said it will work with the church on a payment plan. Officials from the department also said an inspector would come back out to the property again to take a look.

“I want to see some relief from this terrible bill. That bill will put a stress on our already stressed finances,” Bunnell said.

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