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Thursday Jan 31, 2013

Durban pensioners' monster water bill

Two Durban pensioners are at their wits' end after receiving a water bill for more than R12 000, with the city insisting they pay up now and claim from its water insurance later.

Durban pensioner Sue Grant with the enormous water bill she has received from the municipality.

The bill for November, which the couple received earlier this month, records consumption that averages 6 000 litres a day.

This is 15 times the 400 litres that Escombe residents Sue Grant, 73, and her diabetic husband, Wilson, 78, use in their home on an average day.

And this is not the first whopping bill the couple have received from the eThekwini Municipality in the past year.

In February, they were billed for 75 000 litres.

It took the Grants nine months to sort out the first billing snafu.

Now they fear another costly headache.

"This is ridiculous, my husband and I are on our own in this unit. With all the rain he hasn't even watered the garden. After the last episode I have even cut down on using the washing machine," said Sue.

The couple first learnt of the problem on December 28 when they received a letter, dated December 14, from the municipality advising them of their high consumption.

They e-mailed the city the next day asking that an engineer investigate, but the only response to this and later e-mails was a short note advising that the matter had been forwarded to the "correspondence section".

"There are no wet patches outside or in to signify a leak. A plumber friend has checked on a few occasions and found nothing, so what more can I do? What can the municipality offer? Do they have a device that can show if there is a leak? I have had absolutely no reply from them at all," said Sue.

The deputy head of the eThekwini water and sanitation department, Aaron Mfunda, said last February's problem arose because of a meter leakage.

"This is a mechanical device that is exposed to extreme conditions, hence there will be cases where the housing, fittings etc will become brittle and begin to leak," he said.

"We presume the current high consumption is as a result of a leak... The customer needs to repair the leak and submit the claim timeously. If this is not done (the Grants) may be ultimately liable."

Faced with a "terrifying account", Sue does not know what to do. "What I don't understand is that the (city's) engineering department does not have the decency to meet me and tell me what has to be done."

Daily News

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