News 8 Water Bill Investigation: The meter is unreadable, so how - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

News 8 Water Bill Investigation: The meter is unreadable, so how is your bill right?

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – Pictures have poured in from News 8 viewers as we continue our Your Stories investigation about sudden, skyrocketing water bills.

Since News 8 first brought you the story last week, the Public Utilities Department has started looking into the issue.  

Sylvin Watson and other News 8 viewers sent our newsroom photos of scratched, cloudy and dirty meters – with numbers they said are unreadable.

Watson said he and his wife received their first high water bill in February 2017.

“We know they are guessing because there is no way for them to read the meter. We got a water bill $100 more than the previous billing period,” he said.

Watson said he called the Public Utilities Department. He was asked to open and read the meter for them, but when he looked down, he could not see a thing. 

“That’s when I saw the mud completely caked over the meter – so I knew they had not read it.”

VIDEO: News 8 viewer complaints prompts investigation 

After he grabbed a towel to wipe it off, Watson said he still could not read it. “You could not even see the numbers because of the scratches and the damage.”

Watson said he did receive an adjustment on that bill and was told his damaged meter would be replaced. Then, this past December, he received another high bill.

When Watson went to check his meter, he realized it had never been switched out. Watson said he was given another adjustment on his water bill.

He is still waiting for a new meter.

“They [PUD] are pushing back, ‘our meter is correct.’ I’m like, you guys are guessing on mine, so you might be guessing on some other ones.”

RELATED: Many News 8 viewers see sudden jump in water bill 

Since News 8 launched its water investigation last week, Public Utilities Director Michael Vogel says the department has either adjusted people's bills or - in many cases - explained why they're so high.

On Tuesday, City Councilman Chris Cate sent a memo to PUD demanding answers and asking for their participation in a public forum.

“We want to know what is happening. How are they tracking these complaints? Not only in our district but throughout the city,” he said.

Cate said other Council members received the same complaints from their constituents.

City Councilwoman Barbara Bry on Wednesday asked the city auditor to look into the utility department's billing procedures.

The mayor has directed the city's public utilities department to investigate the claims, but the head of the department says there may be some simple reasons San Diegans are seeing higher bills.

So far, city officials have discovered several factors that could contribute to high water bills: a 6.9 percent rate increase that took effect on Aug. 1, a one-time billing schedule change that extended the normal 60-day billing period to up to 70 days late last year, warmer months that could contribute to increased usage, meter reading inconsistencies and leaks in homes and irrigation systems, according to the mayor's office.

"San Diegans need to be able to trust that their bills are correct -- and that every cent they pay goes to ensuring we have safe, reliable water," Faulconer said. "I've directed our Public Utilities Department to review every complaint to ensure that nobody is being overcharged and to correct any mistakes immediately."

The Public Utilities Department said it is not uncommon for meters to get dirty. IT can happen when sprinkles turn on, water gets into the area. As for the scratches, the PUD said all of their employees carry a lubricant like WD40, which helps clear up any cloudiness. 

Watson said he is still waiting for his new meter. 

As for people with questions with their bills or having trouble paying it, you're urged to contact the City of San Diego Public Utilities

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