Water bill shoots up 10 fold and the culprit turns out to be a sinkhole

Family could not afford to pay the $500 bill
Posted at 7:04 PM, Oct 13, 2016

The Drakes say they’ve lived in their home for 5 years and their water bill hovers about $30 a month.   A figure we confirmed through usage records going back two years with Hillsborough County Water.

Then came the August bill. A staggering $523. The statement indicates Drake and her dad, Fred Stanley, somehow used more than about 70,000 gallons of water in a single month compared to the typical 5,000.

The family lives paycheck to paycheck and had no means to pay the bill. Once the shock wore off the Drake tried to figure out how they could have a $500 dollar water bill then they remembered just weeks before the sink hole that had opened up on the road side just a block from their home.

Stanley said a crew worked on repairing the sinkhole for weeks using water from a hydrant in front of their home. Drake told us she filed an appeal with the water department but was told to pay the full amount or face shut off.

After hearing her story and reviewing the family’s normal usage we contacted the county with questions about the bill. In a statement a county spokesperson explained:

"Public Utilities identified high usage on the account on August 22 and issued a field investigation the next day to determine the high usage, but they found that the meter reading was correct and there were no leaks or anything unusual on the property. They made contact with Ms. Drake’s son and advised him of the findings.

On September 12, Public Utilities received a call from Ms. Drake’s daughter inquiring about the high bill and a ground depression in mid-June. At that time, Public Utilities could not determine if the depression caused the high usage, so they advised her that they would send out an unexplainable high use adjustment form and requested the form be returned by September 21.

They received the form on September 22 and processed it today. Her high usage bill in August was $479.73 and Public Utilities’ credit amount totaled $448.59, leaving a balance of $31.14. Any collections fees will be also be credited to Ms. Drake’s account. This is the only bill in the past 24 months that was out of range from her average. The department spoke to Ms. Drake and advised her of the credit adjustment and let her know that a member of their credit team would give her a call to discuss a payment plan to pay off the remaining balance on her account."

Now if you live in Hillsborough County and are facing a spike in your bill you can file a complaint here: