It's No Longer Just Residents Wondering How Bills Can Spike Dramatically When Usage Doesn't Increase All That Much

WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A double-check of your utility bills could save you a bundle. That’s the message from officials in Nassau County. They say their review of water bills turned up expensive surprises.

Water usage surely spikes in the summer and one of the biggest users is local government, but Nassau officials say they found something out of whack in their bills.

“We found that money is literally leaking out of Nassau County in a variety of ways and that has to stop,” Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman said.

Residents on Long Island are furious over a spike in their water bills. (Photo: CBS2)

Schnirman in reviewing New York American Water bills he found eight county properties had tens of thousand of dollars in questionable charges, some from massive leaks but others a mystery — like a tiny pocket park’s small fountain.

“Talk about a red flag. We’ve seen water bills for this one park go from $50 one month to $4,000 the next month. That’s 80 times an increase,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

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That wasn’t the only bloated bill. There were also unexplained administration fees during winter months.

“Parks like this have their water completely shut off during the winter months and yet we are still paying $150 a month,” Schnirman said.

It’s a lesson residents say they’ve learned the hard way — examine utility bills closely. Claudia Boreky is one of many customers of New York American, a private water company that increased rates drastically this summer.

“I would have $200 in two months and now in a month, so its doubled, yes,” Boreky said.

Following a public outcry, millions in refunds will soon be distributed, CBS2’s Gusoff reported. Customers are still pushing for a public takeover.

“What we have been paying is outrageous. The county is finally reading their bills and realizing what they’re paying is outrageous,” said Dave Denenberg, the co-founder of non-profit LI Clean Air Water and Soil.

New York American Water said it’s working with the county to identify leaks.

The Nassau comptroller said the utility bills cannot be rubber-stamped, and he is urging residents to also check closely for abnormal usage spikes.

The county will also be instituting preseason leak testing, Gusoff reported.

A spokesman for New York American Water said the company has done a comprehensive analysis of the county’s 67 water accounts and now only two require further action. Meter testing is underway.

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