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Monday Oct 11, 2010

Bluff couple hit with 'impossible' R15 000 water bill

Charles Botha and his wife live alone in a four-bedroomed house on the Bluff yet, according to the eThekwini municipality, the couple used R15 000 worth of water in April this year, and now owe more than R31 000 in an accumulated electricity and water bill.

His meter reading in April was calculated to be 5 336, although just last month, he photographed his meter reading at only 4 336.

Botha, a plumber by trade, has been threatened with disconnection, even though he has been paying his average bill each month while he fights the case.

The municipality wants him to pay the full amount of R31 941.50.

"I have phoned them and asked them what is going on, but no one has been able to sort the problem out. Only two of us live in the house, it is totally impossible that we used that much water," he said.

After being contacted by The Mercury this week, the municipality looked into the matter and acknowledged that the meter reading was possibly incorrect, as the meter was read over the fence.

However, the head of water and sanitation Neil Macleod, said this had to be done as Botha would not allow municipal staff on to his property to read it.

Botha confirmed this, saying there was an occasion when he did not allow the meter-reader to enter the property, as he was wary that it might have been someone posing as a municipal official.

Nevertheless, Botha said the municipality should have realised there was an error when the meter reading was so high. He had lived on the property for 25 years, and this was the first time an incorrect reading had been taken.

He said that despite being told that his query was being looked at, and that he would be contacted, he was not.

Macleod said letters had been sent to Botha on two occasions last year and, when it did not receive a response, the municipality stopped reading the meter and started billing on an estimate based on the last, "possibly incorrect" consumption.

"Once we get access to the property, we will move the meter to outside the boundary fence and the account will be adjusted," Macleod said.

But Botha said officials replaced his meter about four weeks ago, and put the new one in the same place. "I would move it myself, but I am not allowed to," he said.

In January, Botha's water and electricity bill was R2 158, in February it was R1 887 and R1 937 in March. The average water usage was about 48kl.

However, in April, the reading showed that he and his wife had used 1 003kl of water, at a cost of R15 918.40.

In the August to September period, it was estimated that he used 1 143kl of water, at a cost of R16 795.00.

Botha is now hoping that the matter will be resolved.

The Merucry


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