3OYS: Buckeye homeowner 'tapped' over water bill

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

BUCKEYE, Ariz. -- A Buckeye homeowner says he can't believe that his most recent water bill came to $1,300. He says he couldn't have possibly used that much water. So, he contacted 3 On Your Side for help.

Like most homeowners, Albert and Becky Flores use water around their house and say they pay the water bill when they get it. But a recent water bill from the City of Buckeye stunned them. "In November I got a bill saying I owed $1,046," says Flores.

And that bill eventually swelled to more than $1,300. "They said I used 85,000 gallons.” That's a considerable amount, particularly since the Floreses' normal usage is under 15,000 gallons a month. So, what happened?

3 On Your Side got involved, and the City of Buckeye tells us the 85,000 gallons represents 7 months of water usage that accumulated at the Flores household, but was never paid over that time. Albert went on to say; "From April to October, there's no way I would not have paid my bills."

As it turns out, this entire problem centers around the water meter in front of the Floreses' house. The City of Buckeye says for six months, that meter recorded the Floreses' water usage but the unit failed to remotely send it to the city because it had been unplugged. Why the unit wasn't working properly? No one seems to know.  "I never tampered with the water meter, ever," Flores insists.

As a result, when Albert and his wife would pay their monthly water bill, they were actually paying for water and sewer services but not for the water they had consumed. Buckeye says they noticed the error during an internal audit and that's why the Floreses ended up with a $1,300 bill.

Albert Flores says it's going to be difficult to pay and says they'll have to tap into their vacation fund. “I was saving up to take the kids to Universal Studios," he says.

Basically, the City of Buckeye really didn't do anything wrong. And as for the Flores family, they didn't either. Regardless, it's an expensive pill to swallow and we appreciate the City of Buckeye getting to the bottom of the problem.