ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It takes a lot to shock 80-year-old Air Force veteran Alonzo Hill, but he got the scare of his life when he opened last month’s water bill.
"I’m retired, I can’t afford giving my money away," Hill said. "Last month, my bill was $113.26. This month’s bill was $2,791.11.
"That’s a big jump."
There's no way that much water would be used in an entire year, he said. Hill and his wife are the only residents in their St. Petersburg home, and the couple even installed water savers on his toilet and shower to make sure water isn’t being wasted.
"I called the city and they asked about leaks. I said I have no leaks," Hill said.
Hill said the meter he had was switched out to a new one since his last bill -- maybe that's where things got mixed up.
10Investigates called the City of St. Petersburg, and city officials sent a team out to check Hill's meter and test for leaks.
The city says the meter is reading correctly. Hill’s last reading showed he was going through 100 gallons of water a day, which officials do recognize as "unaccounted for" water loss.
Officials with the water department are checking the meter a second time. Now, it’s important to know St. Petersburg does not check for leaks. That responsibility falls on the homeowner. Hill has been put in touch with the billing review commission and they say they are working with him and consider this a "special case."
Odds are Hill won’t be the last person to get a questionable water bill. Meters do malfunction and there is the option of human error, too, when meters are being checked.
But there are things you can do to check for leaks yourself, according to wikiHow:
- Check the Pressure Relief Valve on the hot water tank. Sometimes these valves are plumbed directly into a drain and may be leaking without your knowledge.
- Check the toilet for leaks by removing the top off the tank and listening very closely. If you hear any hissing at all, try to locate where it is coming from. If you locate the area where the leak is coming from, assess it and determine if you can fix it. If you can't, then call a plumber.
- If nothing is noticeable, add some food coloring and put a couple of drops in the tank (not the bowl). Wait several minutes and if you have coloring in the bowl, you have a leak in the flapper at the bottom of the tank that is allowing water to seep through. At this point, you can assess if you want to do the repair yourself or call a plumber.
- Check the garden. Look at hoses, taps and drip irrigation systems.
- Check the shower head for leaks. It should be a straightforward home repair if this is a source of leaking.