Monday, April 22

Broken water meters in Riviera Beach causing ‘aggravating’ bills, some more than $1,000

Broken water meters across the Riviera Beach Special Utilities District are causing frustration and confusion for customers across their service area.

The city utility, which serves Riviera Beach and some surrounding areas, is dealing with fallout surrounding fecal bacteria and E.coli entering the city’s drinking water in June 2023. However, people complaining about strange and incorrect bills believe the issues within the city’s utility are more widespread than just a water contamination event.

Mary McGee, who lives in Riviera Beach, said she drinks bottled water because it has a yellow-tinted color and it can occasionally smell. She also said her water bill has gotten super high.

“My water bill has never been as high as it’s been,” McGee said. “It’s aggravating because it just went up and up.”

She provided WPTV with documents that show the water utility claimed she is using more than 700 gallons of water in one day multiple times. McGee said she and her grandson can’t use the amount of water the utility claims. She also said she has an issue with her water pressure.

Gary and Stephanie Rodgers, who also get their water from the Riviera Beach Special Utilities District, noticed a problem with their meter. Gary said he noticed the meter would jump in the middle of the night and started taking pictures of the meter every morning and night.

They provided bills to WPTV showing their water bill cost the couple more than $1,000 for using more than 20,000 gallons in one month. To put the figure in perspective, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that the average family of four uses about 12,000 gallons of water in one month.

Stephanie Rodgers said she knew something was wrong with her bill because she was charged for using 18,000 gallons during December, which would cost $1,300. She said they weren’t using water in the home because they visited family members in other states.

“It’s just the two of us,” Stephanie Rodgers said. “What are we doing, filling up the house [with water]?”

The couple are also frustrated because they bought brand new utilities, and it’s their first time paying a water bill.

One homeowner sent WPTV a copy of her water bill showing zero usage, but she was still charged $70 for using water. Her consumption history is also empty for the last 11 months. Riviera Beach Council Member Douglas Lawson also complained at a council meeting regarding his incorrect water bill.

Michael Low, who is the utility director for Riviera Beach Special Utilities District, said the current meters in the city are at 75% of their 10-year service life. He said the meters have issues occasionally.

“The meters are calculating and storing the amount of water used each day, however, infrequently, the output signals from the meters transmitter to the citys computer-based collection system is reporting zero when in fact the lower unit has collected and retained actual water usage,” he said in a written statement. “Eventually the signal gets retrieved but it could be 2 to 3 months later.”

He also said the city has no internal alarms to replace the meters, and it’s working with the meter supplier, Meter Services, to find a long-term solution rather than replace the entire meter assembly.

The city didn’t mention limescale, commonly called lime, in their half-page written statement. But, officials with the city of Riviera Beach have also said at a previous council meeting that lime in the pipes is creating issues for meters.

“These meters werent expected to be affected by lime,” Riviera Beach Director of Finance and Administrative Services Randy M. Sherman said, “but it seems like they are.”

Low said the city’s new water treatment plant wouldn’t fix the lime issue. He said the city has a plan to clean the lime out of the pipes.

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