CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County officials want answers about water bills residents say were too high to have been accurate following last month's chemical leak.
County Commission President Kent Carper sent a letter to the state Public Service Commission asking about the bills, tabulated during the water emergency following the Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 state residents.
Carper said county officials have gotten several complaints from residents saying they can't possibly have used as much water as West Virginia American Water's billing department said they did during the month-long crisis.
"Apparently there are a lot of them," Carper said. "We got one [Friday] from someone who turned their water completely off and got a $300 bill."
Many West Virginia American Water customers were surprised after they got their first water bill following the chemical spill, when water customers were told not to drink, bathe or cook with their tap water. Many residents were surprised to see bills that were the same or more than the previous month, even though they were only using water to flush their toilets or weren't using the water at all.
Carper sent a letter to the Public Service Commission on Feb. 12 asking about the apparent discrepancies.
"The Kanawha County Commission has been approached by citizens asking for help in regards to their recent water bill from West Virginia American Water," Carper wrote.
"These citizens came to the commission office with their December and January water bill; they were exactly the same," Carper told the PSC. "Both stated 'actual reading' and show the same amount of water usage for both months.
"Their question to me was: 'How is this possible? We could not use the water in January except to flush the toilet,' and I must say I have to agree with them." Carper asked PSC officials to investigate the billings.
When Kanawha County residents first began to question the water bills, water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said the water bills would have included the water people used to flush their water lines. She also said January water usage might have been higher than usual because many people left water dripping during an extreme cold spell to keep their pipes from freezing.