Public Advocate Has Set Up Hotline For Customers Seeking Help: 212-669-7250

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some New York City homeowners are drowning.

They claim their water bills are being inflated by newly installed automatic water meters.

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Sahodra Samaroo lives alone, does her laundry once a week, drinks bottled water, uses her dishwasher only for storage, has no garage – only cement – and is afraid to put plants in her flower pots. That’s because after the city installed a new automated water meter, her bill shot up from roughly $62 a quarter to $1,400, reported CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

“Am I paying a mortgage here? Because that’s what it sounds like me: I’m paying a mortgage. $1,400 to pay for water, come on,” Samaroo said. “I got scared.”

She’s not alone. Gas station owner Carmie Elmore, Jr. also got a jaw-dropping increase from his normal $700 bill after the new meter was installed, Kramer reported.

“It eventually went up… to reach $36,000,” Elmore said.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio says his office has received hundreds of complaints. De Blasio says the new technology has glitches and needs to be fixed.

“I gotta tell you, it makes me very angry to think about a hard-working homeowner, who’s doing everything right, playing by the rules, and the city shows up with a huge additional bill,” de Blasio said.

People who don’t pay the bills because they think it’s unfair say they are threatened with liens on their homes and businesses. One of the most outrageous things is that if you want to challenge your water bill, you have to pay the city $180 to have your automated meter checked by a human being, Kramer reported.

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“There are so many New Yorkers who could not put together $180 to appeal their case,” de Blasio said. “So it’s a classic ‘Catch 22.'”

The city insists the new system is working fine.

“The new wireless meter readers are providing accurate data,” said Farrell Sklerov, spokesman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. “In fact, [the  DEP] has seen no significant change in the number of bill disputes since these transmitters started to be installed.”

De Blasio says that while the new technology shows promise, the number of complaints he has received may just be the tip of the iceberg.

If you have complaints about your water bill, you can call the public advocate’s hotline at 212-669-7250.

What do you make of the debacle? Tell us your thoughts – and your recommended solution – in the comments section below. 

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