Union County man gets $3,000 water bill due to frozen pipe

Union County man gets $3,000 water bill due to frozen pipe

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Kent Stanley took us behind his old mini market in Union County to show us a water line that broke from sub-freezing temperatures in early February. Kent Stanley took us behind his old mini market in Union County to show us a water line that broke from sub-freezing temperatures in early February.
He tried to protect the water line from freezing temperatures by wrapping it in insulation and a five gallon bucket. The effort didn't work. He tried to protect the water line from freezing temperatures by wrapping it in insulation and a five gallon bucket. The effort didn't work.
Kent Stanley called 6 On Your Side after receiving a $3,000 bill. At first he thought there had been a mistake. Kent Stanley called 6 On Your Side after receiving a $3,000 bill. At first he thought there had been a mistake.
Darren Cardwell, general manager of Hallsdale Powell Utility says he would describe 3,500 gallons as a "catastrophic event." Darren Cardwell, general manager of Hallsdale Powell Utility says he would describe 3,500 gallons as a "catastrophic event."

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

MAYNARDVILLE (WATE) - This winter has been one of the coldest on record for East Tennessee. For some families, the low temperatures froze water lines breaking them and producing high water bills.

A farmer in Union County called 6 On Your Side after receiving a $3,000 bill. At first he thought there had been a mistake.

Utility companies say quite a few people in February and March received notice of some pretty high water bills due to hidden leaks caused by frozen water lines.

The question that comes to our 6 On Your Side hotline is: what can be done to cut the price?

Most utility companies have what is called a "leak adjustment policy," but to qualify you have to initiate the action.

Kent Stanley took us behind his old mini market in Union County to show us a water line that broke from sub-freezing temperatures in early February.

The line feeds his daughter's mobile home as well as his home, a century old farmhouse where Mr. Stanley continues to run a working farm.

He tried to protect the water line from freezing temperatures by wrapping it in insulation and a five gallon bucket. The effort didn't work.

"The weather, it's been outrageous. Cold," said Stanley. "With all that effort I put into it, it still froze. And it busted."

Right after the $3,000 bill arrived, Stanley immediately checked his water meter to see if there had been a mistake.

"As you can see, it's not leaking. That value will spin if it leaking. It's shut off tight. It's not leaking anywhere," Stanley said, describing how the meter looks now that the leak has stopped.

He then described how the meter looked when the bill arrived.

"When I come here and looked at it, it was flying. Then I walked around there and I still couldn't find it. I didn't know where it was leaking it, but it was leaking."

Before he found the leak, more than 35,000 gallons of water had been used in one month.

"When I finally discovered it, the water was everywhere - in the insulation, the bucket and down on the ground. I had no idea it was leaking," he said. "Now it is shut off there, so I have it capped here and as you can see, it is not leaking."

Stanley's water comes from the Hallsdale Powell Utility District.

Darren Cardwell, general manager of Hallsdale Powell Utility says he would describe 35,000 gallons as a "catastrophic event."

Over the last six weeks, he says there have been quite a few customers like Stanley with broken water lines caused by the extreme cold.

"As they call in, we'll send a technician out to verify the leak was fixed. Once the leak is fixed we'll do a leak adjustment," said Cardwell.

Through the utility's leak adjustment policy, Stanley's bill has been cut from $3,000 to just over $900.

"We try to work with them as much as possible on the accounts to make those payments if there is a substantial amount of money, which a lot of them have been," Cardwell said.

Stanley says next winter, he'll take better measures to protect his water line. 

Just a few weeks ago, the Hallsdale Powell Utility District approved $60,000 in leak adjustments. At their next meeting, they expect to consider more adjustments, mainly due to those unknown leaks from broken pipes.

Stanley plans on spreading his payments out over the next 12 months until he gets caught up.

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