09/16/07 — Southeastern Wayne Sanitary District customers concerned about bills

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Southeastern Wayne Sanitary District customers concerned about bills

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 16, 2007 2:06 AM


News-Argus Staff Writer

As residents in the Southeastern Wayne Sanitary District finish receiving and paying their water bills this month, board members are expecting an unusually full house for their Sept. 20 meeting.

The reason: Unusually high costs.

In July, one customer, Shealvy Barwick on Pineview Cemetery Road, was charged for using 16,250 gallons of water. Her bill jumped from $16 to nearly $86.

Ms. Barwick, an elderly lady, lives by herself. She said that not only does she not own a swimming pool, she also never waters her grass and only does laundry once a week.

"There's no way I used that much water," she said.

And yet, her son, Dennis Barwick, can find no reason for the increased cost -- no leaks, no excess running water.

"We walked over her yard, and we can't find anything. With 16,000 gallons worth of water, you'd think there'd be a pretty nice green patch or something," he said.

And while Ms. Barwick's August bill was slightly lower, it was still more than the 5 percent rate hike should have accounted for.

But residents say that the problem hasn't been confined to just her.

"Everybody she's talked to has gone up at different rates," her son said.

Her daughter, Lori Quinn on Indian Springs Road, also saw her rate jump in July, from $27 to $79.

"There's no way," she said. "We're not home during the day Monday through Friday. We checked for leaks and everything. I even had them change my meter (at a cost of $50).

"I've never had one this high. There's something wrong. Everybody that I've talked to around my neighborhood has seen their bill jump."

Even Jim Barnwell on Woods Drive in Dudley has seen his rates increase. He went from $17 in June, to almost $42 in July.

He, too, has not been able to find any leaks and says that he hasn't been using any more water than usual. It's a problem, he said, that's affecting him and four of his five neighbors.

"It's just this one month it seems everybody skyrocketed," Barnwell said. "I know I didn't use that much water. I don't know what caused it to do that. They said it all went to the meter, but I don't know where it went."

But, said Joey Threewitts, operations manager for Southeastern Wayne, from what they can tell, there's nothing wrong with their system.

"When we see this, most of the time people have a spike upward and then it comes back down if it's not a problem with meter," he said. "It's not uncommon."

And the reason, he continued, is usually an unexpected increase in usage, especially in the summer, which is peak season anyway.

"People use more water and they really don't think about it until they get the bill," he said. "A lot of the time we also run into something that has been left running."

He said, though, that if people are sure their usage did not increase, the sanitary district is interested in helping them identify the problem.

"We'll do whatever we can to help people figure out where the water's coming from, but we don't actually go out and check anything beyond the meter," Threewitts said.

That answer, however, is not good enough for Barnwell, who is planning on attending Thursday's board meeting along with several of his neighbors.

"I don't mind paying my bill if I use the water, or even if I have a leak, but I hate paying for something that wasn't mine," he said.

Any resident wishing to join him on the board's agenda, should contact the district office at 731-2310 prior to Thursday's meeting.

Southeastern Sanitary District covers Dudley, part of the Mount Olive area and part of the Seven Springs area. Its office is located at 104 S. Center St., Goldsboro.