Oh, about that $51,000 water bill we sent you?
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has decided after an "investigation" that Savely and Stella Goreshter, who live in a Van Nuys condominium, did not use 6.7 million gallons of water between January and October of last year. Or anywhere near that amount.
The DWP sent an investigator to the house Wednesday to check things out. That was the day of my column on the retired couple, who have been living in fear that they would lose everything they own if the utility didn't acknowledge its obvious mistake and back off. By Thursday morning, though, all was well in Van Nuys.
"My parents will sleep well tonight," the retired couple's daughter, Felicia, told me Thursday morning.
David Wright, who oversees customer service for the DWP, had this to say:
"There's no way they could have used that much water."
The Goreshters had tried for months to get the matter settled, but instead the DWP threatened to shut off their water if they didn't pay the alleged past due amount of $51,269.42.
Wright said the inaccurate billing was not caused by the utility's $178-million billing system, which has screwed up thousands of accounts since 2013. Instead, the culprit could have been a faulty meter, said Wright, but he did not rule out the possibility of someone tapping the service line and stealing the water.
If someone out there stole 6.7 million gallons of water I would love to see the size of their jugs. But wasn't there anyone at the DWP with a bright enough bulb to consider that perhaps the bill was a mistake?
"The honest answer," said Wright, was that someone in billing should have taken the matter to a supervisor and said "this is strange and out of the norm."
But that didn't happen.
"I can't apologize enough to these customers. It would shock anybody" to get a bill that high, said Wright. Now that the adjustment has been made, the Goreshters have an $85 credit.
The DWP has acknowledged that thousands of billing disputes remain unresolved. If any residential customers can top the Goreshters' $51,000 bill, please let me know immediately. For the person with the biggest DWP mistake above that amount, I'm going to buy and personally deliver a low-flow toilet to your house (installation not included).