22News I-Team: Unusually high water bills in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – 22News first reported Springfield residents’ complaints of unusually high water bills on Tuesday. Since then, more complaints have been flooding into the newsroom.

Michael Garcia has lived in this Indian Orchard home for 30 years. He told the 22News I-Team that his water bill is usually around $60. However, his bill has been rising dramatically since June and he doesn’t know why.

“We don’t wash our cars and we don’t water our lawn,” Garcia explained. “I know everybody’s been home with the pandemic, but we aren’t wasting water like that.”

Jaimye Bartak of the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission told 22News it’s not just watering the lawn or washing your car, that can make the bill go up. Flushing the toilet, washing your hands more, and even small leaks can all add up.

“Even a small, pinprick leak that runs constantly can consume thousands of extra gallons a month,” she said.

Bartak did explain a way for people to check their meters to see if there might be a small leak somewhere in the home. First, look for the small, blue pinwheel on the meter – that’s the low flow meter.

“If you turn off all the water that you know of in the house, and this is moving at all, that means there water moving somewhere in the house,” Bartak explained. “That could indicate a leak.”

She added that these meters are extremely accurate in tracking just how much water is used. Residents are charged a rate of $3.96 per 100 cubic feet of water, which equals about 748 gallons. This rate increased about 9 percent in July.

Springfield Water and Sewer Commission Adopts FY21 Rates

The revised proposed rates for combined water and sewer represent an increase of 9.5% for residential commercial customers.

The residential sewer rate will increase from $5.71 to $6.25 per CCF, and the commercial sewer rate will increase from $6.28 to $6.88 per CCF. The typical household water and sewer bill is estimated to increase an average of approximately $8.86 per month. The rate increases will be applied to water and sewer use beginning July 1, 2020, with the increases reflected in bills issued in August 2020.

Garcia said even with this increase, he doesn’t understand how his bill could have gone up so much.

“People are hurting these days and things are hard,” said Garcia. “They shouldn’t be raising things this time of year. Wait until things get a little bit better.”

Springfield also supplies water to several neighboring communities, like Ludlow, Agawam and East Longmeadow. Bartak told 22News that only Springfield and Ludlow residents are affected by the 9 percent rate increase.

If you are concerned that you might not be able to pay your bill in full, Bartak said you should each out to the Water and Sewer Commission. You can find their contact information here.

WEB EXTRA: TIPS ON CONSERVING WATER

Bartak told 22News there are some other ways to bring you bill down and conserve water. She said if residents are unsure of how much water is being used..they should check their meter.

“We recommend keeping a notebook by your meter which is kept in the basement and checking it at the same time at the beginning and end of everyday so you can gain an understanding of how much water you’re using on a day-to-day basis, and make adjustments accordingly,” she explained.

As for those lawns and landscaping, she has a couple of money-saving tips.

  1. Use what is called a “soaker hose” on bushes and shrubs. These hoses have tiny holes in them. They water the roots directly by spraying the water right into the ground, rather than in the air like a traditional sprinkler.
  2. Bartak said lawns only need about an inch of water per week. In the video below, she explains how you can keep track of rainfall in a tuna can so you don’t waste your water on the lawn.

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