Fox 8 Defenders: Lakeview homeowner receiving high water bills, little assistance from SWB

Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 4:40 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For over a year now, a Lakeview homeowner says she’s been receiving high water bills from the Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, even though she says the problem appears to be with board equipment. She tells the Fox 8 Defenders they owe her $1,800 and fees for plumbers she hired to try to deal with the problem.

The concrete around Kelly Reichert’s water meter tells part of the story.

Reichert says she started receiving bills nearly five times higher than her normal bills of $248 a month at her Canal Boulevard home in October of 2019.

“I was shocked and then they started coming in at $943, $546,” she said.

Reichert says the bills kept getting higher and higher every month and on November 4 she got a bill for $1,863 and no one seemed to have an answer.

After months of back-and-forth with sewerage and water board, the Reichert’s called two plumbers out to try and isolate the problem.

“He said it’s on the city side, they need to come out and fix their equipment,” said Reichert.

The sewerage and water board acknowledged it had a malfunctioning meter in a letter dated October 16 and they adjusted the bill from $2,063 to $1,595. Reichert says they still owe her more than $1,800 for overpayments and plumbing bills.

“They said ‘I’m glad you found it,’ and I said ‘Do I get reimbursed for my expenses’ and they said ‘no we can’t do that,’” Reichert told the Fox8 Defenders.

The Orleans SWB released this statement Tuesday afternoon:

We are always committed to billing every customer correctly. It is our policy to reimburse customers 100% of both water and sewer fees when the leak is found to be the responsibility of Sewerage and Water Board and 50% of the excess sewer fees and 50% of the excess water fees for leaks that occurred above ground, such as leaking fixtures. We will adjust 100% of the excess sewer fees and 50% of the excess water fees for leaks that occurred in underground pipes.

After a thorough investigation, this customer was refunded a total of  $960. We always encourage customers to continue paying toward their bill, even when it’s under investigation, as there are still fixed charges (city sanitation fee, safe drinking water fee, etc.) that are included on every bill and are due regardless of water usage or leaks. This helps to ensure the bill remains manageable once the investigation is complete.

Additionally, any plumbing costs incurred are eligible for reimbursement. We encourage the customer to visit to begin the process.

Reichert’s son says the overcharges have taken a toll.

“I don’t want to see her waste time. She’s putting in a ton of time and effort in fighting problems that are not our job to find,” he said.

And though the Orleans Sewerage and Water Board has made some adjustments, the Reicherts say they don’t go far enough and are still awaiting a response

Kelle Reichert says the sewerage and water board did repair the leak on their side of the water meter. She would also like them to repair the concrete.

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