Water bills skyrocket for some South Tampa homes

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Neighbors contacted FOX 13 News when they noticed their water bills were double, triple, and, in some cases, quadruple compared to their last payments.

The high bills seem to be concentrated in South Tampa, specifically in the neighborhoods of Ballast Point, Culbreath Bayou and Port Tampa.

James Adair said he noticed he was being charged for nearly four times his normal usage, and turned to an online neighborhood forum to find out if he was alone. He got nearly 70 responses from people saying their bills looked suspiciously high, as well.

"Mine says I've used 32,000 gallons. I was gone during that month and my normal usage is 8,000," said Adair.

FOX 13 took the neighbors' concerns to city hall. Water Department Director Chuck Weber said the city has only gotten 15 complaints about high water bills. In some cases, the city found leaks on the owners' properties. In several other cases, the city admits a meter reader misread the meters, but Weber said the misreads are not a widespread issue.

Weber asked anyone who believes their bill is elevated to contact the city's water department at (813) 274-8811.

The city said it would send someone out to investigate, and if they discover the usage was a result of an inaccurate reading, they'll refund any overages and late fees. For now, however, residents have to pay the high bills to keep their accounts active and water flowing.

The city said it had a widespread water billing issue back in 2010 and attributed it to a trend of inaccurate readings. As a result, they overhauled the system. Weber said the current situation is not a repeat of the 2010 problem.

"We maintain that mark of 99.7-percent accuracy. We continue to investigate high bills as they come in. Typically, we do find leaks on the customer's property and we help them to get those corrected as soon as possible," said Weber.