Woman battles City on sky-high water bill

Amanda Collins, 52, and Skyla, 14, has been living without water since Monday August 6 and have a water bill of R220 419.

Amanda Collins, 52, from Montrose Park has to agree to have a prepaid meter installed before the City will restore her water supply.

Ms Collins and her daughter Skyla, 14, who is autistic, have been without water since Monday August 6.

In April 2017, Ms Collins applied for a rebate as she was unemployed at the time. She had to apply for indigent status in order to have a water management device installed, which was approved.

This, however, has not yet been installed.

New Port Water Solutions, contracted to the City council was to have come out to install the water meter, but before they did so, they fixed the leak on Ms Collins’ toilet, which they assured her she did not have to pay for. It was in October 2017 that Ms Collins noticed her bill was gradually increasing and went to Lentegeur sub-council offices to report it.

When she reported to the municipality that she believed her escalating bill was the result of another leak on her property, they then sent another contractor to install the water management device. They were, however, unable to do so because they detected a leak outside the property and turned off the supply to Ms Collins’ home.

She was informed that the repair work would be for her own account, but she was unable to afford to pay for it.

For 10 months she struggled to get the City to foot the bill for the leak, but New Port Water Solutions informed her that they could not go ahead with any work until they got authorisation from the City.

“At the time I was walking to and from the City for 10 months but I had to be patient as I really wanted someone to help me but no one did. I had to check where the leaks were and what was happening with my water,” she said.

In April this year, she received a letter saying that her application for a water management device had expired and she needed to reapply.

On Sunday July 22 this year, her neighbours’ son-in-law chopped a piece of the pavement open to check where the leak was coming from as the water was surfacing and found that the pipe to the water meter had a hole in it.

They instructed her to get a coupling and fix the pipe so she approached another neighbour who is a registered plumber and got a coupling. Another neighbour, however, who is also a registered plumber confirmed the leak but told her that it was the City’s responsibility to fix it as it was not on her property.

So, she logged a complaint and a representative of the Rocklands Water and Sanitation office came to inspect. Ms Collins said he confirmed and acknowledged that it was on the City’s property and that the City should send someone to fix it – which they did.

Soon after, she noticed her water pressure was low and on Monday July 23, she went to the municipality to report this. During this visit to the office, Ms Collins received a reference number for the low water pressure and a reference number for the writing off of the water bill.

But she refused the installation of the water management device.

“The contractors were incompetent and did not do a thorough investigation. The City has failed me as I have tried everything. I don’t mind putting the water meter in but the City could not help me with my situation, I don’t want the water meter anymore. My water bill is now at R220 419 and I refuse to pay that amount.”

The City has since turned off the water supply to Ms Collins’ home and the only water she has access to is a trickle she collects in a 5-litre bucket.

When the Plainsman contacted the City, they offered little hope for Ms Collins. Media manager, Luthando Tyhalibongo, confirmed that Ms Collins had refused the installation of the water management device and that her water supply had been “restricted” until her debt was settled.

“An analysis of the water usage at this property reflects that the water consumption at the premises has been increasing,” he said.

“In February 2018 the water inspector visited the premises and confirmed that there was movement on the meter indicating a private leak and the customer was informed accordingly. Attempts to install a water management device at the premises were unsuccessful as the customer refused the installation.

“The supply is currently restricted due to outstanding debt.”