Triad senior couple stressed by unusually high water bills

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When Phyllis Oliphant got her November water bill, she thought it was a joke.

“Are you kidding me? I could not believe it,” she said.

Her bill was for $648.95.

“There was no possible way,” Oliphant said.

Oliphant says it was a huge jump from the $20 to $30 she says she normally pays every two months.

“It has been unbelievably stressful,” she said.

The 73-year-old lives in Winston-Salem with her husband and says they don't use a lot of water.

“We are two seniors,” she said. “We live alone.”

She had a plumber check it out along with someone from the city/county utilities division. Neither found a leak.

In January, Oliphant got a letter from the city saying there was an error and cut her bill by about half.

Oliphant was relieved until she got her next bill.

"I thought they had fixed this,” she said. “And if you can sort of like collapse, that's what I did.”

Her January bill was for $597.07.

“'This is the bill, and you pay it or your water is shut off,'” she said she was told. “That's what I was getting.”

But Oliphant refused.

“I was not willing to pay $700 every two months for water that I wasn't using,” she said.

This week, the city replaced her meter and settled her bill, but Oliphant says that only happened after she contacted FOX8.

Ed McNeal the spokesperson for Winston-Salem wrote this in an email to FOX8:

“Mrs. Oliphant may feel that working with media is how she got results, but the truth is that nothing was done for her that is not done for any other customer that has been in the same situation.  There are more than 90,000 accounts in Winston-Salem and all customers are provided a high level of customer service.”

The city/county utilities division is investigating the situation.

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