Preventing excessive water bills before you get hit with sticker shock

RESERVE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — 11 Investigates is working to get answers for our viewers after families in Reserve Township reached out about excessive water bills they say they can’t afford to pay.

One woman tells 11 Investigates that her bill was $3,444 and most people just don’t have that kind of money laying around.

Consumers do have rights. If you get a surprise bill, you can ask how your bill is calculated, you can question its accuracy and even dispute it. You can also file a formal complaint with the Public Utility Commission which oversees many utilities in Pennsylvania.

As for Reserve Township, 11 Investigates reached out to the Township’s Manager, Jan Kowalski.

She says in each case we presented her with, the bills are correct, and the water usage is because of a leak - either in a private water line or from a faulty hot water tank.

Kowalski wants residents to know there is a solution to catch leaks and fix them before your bill balloons into something you can’t afford to pay. They’re called smart meters. They’re devices that attach to your water meter and alert homeowners or the water company that there is an increase in water usage and a leak may be to blame. In many cases, they’re wireless and data can be accessed remotely. They even have an emergency shut off feature.

Kowalski says she fought for nearly a year to get approval for PWSA to take over Reserve Township’s operations and maintenance. She says Reserve Township doesn’t have the resources to update and maintain technology for the good of residents in town. She says the Public Utility Commission (PUC) denied the proposal to have PWSA takeover. That means smart, wireless meters won’t be coming to Reserve Township anytime soon, which Kowalski calls unfortunate.

But some townships, like Cranberry have implemented smart meters to help neighbors save money and monitor their water usage. You can also buy one yourself. We found them starting around $200 online, including on Amazon.

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