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Troubleshooters: Drowning in more water bill problems


Julie Little used to pay about $50 every other month for sewer, based on the gallons of water she used at her house. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority recently made some changes, and went to a flat rate system of $82.50 per household for sewer service.

“I think it’s kind of a gimmick to get more money out of people, because some people are just saying the heck with it, and paying the $82.50,” said Little.

When Julie’s neighborhood off Cathay Road was built, county water was not an option, so a private company called Aqua built the water system. Until recently, Aqua read the customers meters to put together water bills, and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority did their own, separate meter readings for the sewer bills – but not anymore.

“When Aqua asked us not to read their meters, we obliged, and switched all our customers to the flat rate,” described CFPUA customer service director Martha Zeigler.

Aqua tells WWAY there were liability concerns with outside agencies like the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority reading their water meters, so they put a stop to it. CFPUA customers can still qualify for a sewer rate based on usage, but to qualify they have to fill out an application, then show proof of their water usage.

Sally Farias is also upset about her sewer bill. “In order to keep your meter read, not the flat rate, you had to fax in your water bill every month, which to me, I don’t have time for that,” she said.

The good news is, this is only temporary. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is working with Aqua to come up with a list of customers they have in common. Once that happens, Aqua will start sending the CFPUA a list of meter readings each month, so that the agency can calculate sewer bills without customers having to mail in any information.

“We realize that customers are upset about the change, but we’re trying to work with the customers to come up with a solution,” said Zeigler. “while we are currently working with Aqua to get these meter readings in automatically.”

The agencies hope to have this worked out in the next couple of months. In the meantime, save your water bills.

If you missed the July deadline for getting the metered rate, you’ll have another chance to apply in December, and the utility authority will credit you for all the bills you’ve saved since the changes went into effect.

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Story summary

videoJulie Little called our newsroom recently, upset about her bill from the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. The agency has fixed the computer glitch that caused billing problems all over New Hanover County, but a new problem has cropped up.

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