Water line leak lands Knox County couple with $8,470 water bill

Water line leak lands Knox County couple with $8,470 water bill

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"This almost $9,000, I cannot pay. There's no way even to make a payment arrangement to do this," Lea Anne Sisco said. "This almost $9,000, I cannot pay. There's no way even to make a payment arrangement to do this," Lea Anne Sisco said.
When the couple received their water bill, it was quite a shock. When the couple received their water bill, it was quite a shock.
Puddles remain in the yard near where the water main break occurred. Puddles remain in the yard near where the water main break occurred.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A young couple got quite a shock recently when they opened their water bill.

The amount of water they used and the price they have been charged is unreal.

Walking in a muddy field not far from their house, Aaron and Lea Anne Sisco took 6 On Your Side to where their landlord made repairs two weeks ago.

"You can see where he was digging," said Aaron. "This is where he replaced the line."

There was a big leak in the water line close to the couple's water meter, the landlord fixed it.

"I think it was about a 10 or 12 foot section that he replaced of the line," Aaron said.

Two point five million gallons of water leaked from the line. It was a gusher.

But that's nothing compared to the amount of money they've been charged - $8,469.93.

The bill for the newlywed couple is enough to make them cry "uncle."

"We don't have cable, we don't have internet, we don't have luxuries. We're living day to day with basic necessities," Lea Anne said.

The Siscos moved into their East Knox County home in mid-November.

They say the water pressure at their tap in January seemed normal.

Their previous two water bills had been $11 in November and December.

They asked the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) if the $8,500 bill could be adjusted. Unfortunately, they haven't lived in their home long enough.

"They can't do anything about helping us out with the bill," Aaron said.

Margo Norton is the couple's landlord. She says her husband repaired the leak within hours after KUB reported it.   

Norton says there had been no indication of any problem near the water line.

6 On Your Side talked with Harley Bryant of KUB.

"Whoever is being billed for the water, it is there responsibility," said Harley Bryant of KUB. "Anything past the water meter is on the property owner or the tenant."

Bryant says because the Siscos have lived in their home only a short time, their average monthly water usage can't  be determined.

"In this case, since they don't have a lot of history, [there's] not much of an average for us to write an adjustment against," he said.

KUB says a technician is reading the couple's water meter every week this month to determine an average usage.

The utility also has a program to help customers who have a catastrophic water leak.

"Depending on what her average ends up being, she will get a significant adjustment to her account," Bryant said.

"We will help," said landlord Margo Norton.

Norton says as the landlord they, too, will assume some financial responsibility.

The Siscos hope KUB's adjustment will be generous.

"This almost $9,000, I cannot pay. There's no way even to make a payment arrangement to do this," Lea Anne said.

Once the meter was read and they knew something was wrong, the Siscos did all the right things: they called their landlord, got the water turned off at the meter and contacted the utility company's customer service.     

The couple will likely find out about their adjustment from KUB shortly after the first week in March.

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