Water bills skyrocketing by hundreds of dollars for some Ferndale residents

Posted at 2:51 PM, Aug 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 12:44:54-04

FERNDALE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Some people living in Ferndale say they are experiencing high water bills after having their water meter upgraded.

Like most of the city of Ferndale, Heather Aldrich recently had a new water meter installed.

She never expected her water bill to quadruple as a result, skyrocketing from $83 to $355.

"To get a $350 bill was kind of disturbing," Aldrich said. "Especially during a pandemic, I am back to work. I am lucky enough to be back to work, but I am back to work at 50 percent my pay."

So she called the city to see what happened.

"He said 'Oh yeah a lot of people are having these problems, it's because there is an A that means actual reading … the old readings will have an E which means an estimated reading,'" she said.

"I've been in my house for 16 years and that’s never been a thing," she continued.

The city says that’s because the old water meters stopped transmitting data at some point.

"The meters were still functioning properly in the homes but were unable to communicate usage to the antenna system," according to the city of Ferndale.

In a city council meeting last week, officials explained that water bills were estimated until new meters were installed, then actual readings from the old meters were taken. The difference between the estimated and actual usage from previous billing cycles were reflected on the most recent bill.

Aldrich isn’t the only person to be caught off guard.

"On Facebook, I saw people posting about it, and I was like 'oh so I’m not alone everyone else is having this problem too,'" according to Aldrich.

She says she wishes the city had told her nine months ago when her water usage began being estimated.

"I think if they would have done that we could have prepared for it."

The city of Ferndale says there are payment plans available.

"We are delaying penalties as we work through the pandemic timing."