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Don't Blame Us, Blame the Hot and Dry Summer

The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey wrote last week, "Arlington officials’ explanation on water bills still not convincing everyone."

He explains, but only in part:

"Arlington public-works officials remain steadfast in their belief that it was last year’s hot and dry summer that led some county residents to experience major spikes in their water bills.

"But not everyone is buying it.

"In a Feb. 28 briefing to County Board members, government officials acknowledged that 6 percent of cases they investigated over the past year were found in some way to be the fault of the county government, and about a third were found to be previously unnoticed leaks. But 60 percent of the time, there was no other explanation besides the likelihood that water customers simply were using more water.

“We’ve not found any evidence of a process or a system error,” said Mike Collins, deputy director of operations for the county government’s Department of Environmental Services.Collins repeated the county government’s past statements that a wet summer and early fall of 2015 was followed by a hot and dry summer and fall of 2016, “a perfect scenario” for seeing both interior and – more significantly – exterior water-usage spikes.

"Lawn-watering, frequent car-washing, leaky faucets or toilets and an increase in household size all can impact water bills, county officials noted. Water and sewer rates total $13.87 per 1,000 gallons used, and high levels of irrigation (or even a leaky toilet) can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars in extra costs, they said.

"For months, owners of single-family homes in various parts of the county complained on social media about major increases in bills for the affected period.

“Our staff has been taking this very seriously,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz.

"But many have found the government’s explanation less than satisfying. “Ridiculous” is how Yorktown Civic Association president Mike Cantwell described the Feb. 28 report to County Board members. Several other civic leaders also vented their anger, but didn’t want to do so on the record.

"County Board member John Vihstadt was slightly more restrained, saying it was “frustrating” that there was no answer found to satisfy concerns of a restless community."

You can read McCaffrey's entire report here.

Growls readers who may have encountered spikes in their water bills are encouraged to tell that to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link to send the Board a message:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.


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