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Man concerned that $7,000 bill shows fraud at S&WB

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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

A man says he received a Sewerage and Water Board bill for more than $7,000 - and workers didn't even check his meter. The Sewerage and Water board admits to issues with their billing system, but the concern is that the bill is evidence of fraud.

Trimble Green wasn't planning to dig a hole in front of a couple of properties he owns in Uptown. The only reason he grabbed a shovel is because the water meter was buried a couple of feet under the ground.

When he received a bill for $7,000, the bill said an employee actually read - not estimated - the meter buried beneath the ground.

“Not only was it not as high as what they said it was, it was less than half what they said it was,” Green said.

Green said he read the meter as a 22 percent increase from last month's bill. The water board read it as a 160 percent increase.

No one from the S&WB would on camera about the billing issues. They admitted to multi-layered problems they're trying to fix, and pointed us to a finance committee meeting earlier in the month where interim Director Marcie Edwards made the presentation and discussed the billing issues.

“Billing irregularities are not only brought by the system itself, but it also comes from a variety of other issues,” Edwards said.

The problems range from buried meters, to leaks, to software training issues. Edwards said of the utility's 136,000 customers, only seven percent have filed bill complaints and launched investigations.

“Ultimately we want to get to a staffing level where we physically read every meter every month, and that’s where you eliminate the problems associated with estimated bills,” Edwards said.

Green fears others may have inaccurate bills and wind up paying something they don't owe. But he says he's not planning to pay any part of his bill.

“If this bill is sent to Sewerage and Water Board attorney, they're going to sue you because they're going to say it’s actually read, then it’s going to be up to you to defend yourself to come back, dig up this meter and make them stick their head down there to show them they're absolutely wrong,” Green said.

If you believe you have an incorrect bill, you can call the S&WB and request an investigation. Until it's resolved, you're advised to continue paying what you would normally pay a month.

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