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Water meter mix-up leads to costly bill for Calgary family

Click to play video 'Calgary family hit with $423 charge after meter mix-up' Calgary family hit with $423 charge after meter mix-up
WATCH: A water meter mix-up has led to a big bill for a Calgary family. Global’s Tomasia DaSilva explains what happened and how often it happens – Dec 11, 2019

A Calgary family is speaking out after being faced with a pricey water bill following a meter mix-up.

Joe Armstrong contacted Global News after getting an adjustment charge for more than $400 last month. His bill is usually $80 to $90 a month.

“My first reaction: this must be a mistake,” he said Wednesday.

A Calgary homeowner received a $423 bill after a meter mix-up.
A Calgary homeowner received a $423 bill after a meter mix-up. Global News

It turns out there was a mistake: a mix-up in the water meters at his townhouse complex. He had been paying the wrong bill for more than a year.

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Armstrong had been paying for his neighbour’s water usage and his neighbour had been paying for his.

“Whenever they swapped the meters, I guess in May 2018, there was some crossing of the wires there,” he said.

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The City of Calgary is responsible for water services, contracting out the billing to ENMAX.

Officials told Global News mistakes can happen, especially when it comes to multiple units.

“Sometimes in an apartment building when all of the meters are in the same area, the meters can be set up on the wrong water line,” said Nancy Stalker, the city’s director of water services.

But Stalker added it doesn’t happen very often.

“Meter mix-ups are very rare,” she said. “We might see about 200 cases that we’re investigating a year but we’ve got over 375,000 meters installed in the city so it’s really rare.”

Stalker advised anyone who believes they have received a bill in error to reach out.

“If you have any concerns, have a look at your bill,” she said. “There’s a meter number on there. Have a look at it then have a look at your meter. If those things don’t match, give us a call.”

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Armstrong said he did call — repeatedly. He said that is what frustrated him the most.

“It’s just the lack of recourse, the lack of information,” he said.

“Am I capable of paying the bills? Yes, I am, thankfully, but there [are] a lot of people that may not be.”

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The City of Calgary has owned up to the mistake and waived the adjustment charge on Armstrong’s account.

His neighbour has also been refunded for his overpayment.