Of the 60 Bethesda-area customers who complained of water bills hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars higher than normal, only one was a WSSC error, according to the water and sewer utility.

WSSC General Manager Jerry Johnson and other WSSC officials are expected to attend a County Council hearing on the issue set for Monday morning in Rockville.

There, they will go through the review process for customers who feel they’ve been charged too much for water service. They’ll also respond to the county’s Office of Consumer Protection, which in June released a report saying WSSC should add an independent review of bill disputes.

In a response to the Office of Consumer Protection, Johnson wrote that WSSC took the time to review the 60 bills in dispute. (WSSC has roughly 475,000 accounts in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.) Of those 60 bills, WSSC said it found problems with nine and only one was found to be a WSSC meter reading error.

One was an estimated bill that was re-billed with an actual reading. One was caused by a gasket leak that was adjusted, another was caused by an underground leak that was adjusted and five were caused by toilet leaks. WSSC said customers in three of those toilet leak cases were given adjustments to their bill because of the problem.
“Considering that every one of our customers was affected by this extended billing period, WSSC did not receive an unusual number of complaints from either Prince George’s County or Montgomery County customers. Sixty complaints out of 475,000 (from a very limited geographic area) is not a deluge,” Johnson wrote.
In May, Councilmember Roger Berliner wrote Johnson that he heard from the daughter of a 91-year-old constituent who claimed she was billed $900 over a three-and-a-half month period. Her typical bill for that period of time would be around $90, the daughter claimed.

WSSC said those much-higher than usual bills could’ve been because of undetected leaks or a longer than normal billing cycle that happened because of a rough winter that prevented meter readings.

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Johnson and WSSC officials are also expected to tell the Berliner-led Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee that their review system for billing disputes already has an element of independence. Two of the three members of WSSC’s Dispute Resolution Board are ratepayers, WSSC said.